We Are Addicted To Our Thoughts

“We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.” ―Santosh Kalwar

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Sick Writer

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I find myself unable to concentrate this afternoon as I work on what I can only hope is my second to last draft. Everything is coming together nicely, but my health is taking an unhappy turn.

It only took six and a half months, two applications (the first of which they lost and didn’t tell me about until January!), and a plethora of phone calls to find out that my health insurance has finally been approved! The utterly daunting task of finding a primary care physician, a neurologist, and someone who can actually diagnose and treat whatever the hell I have is overwhelming.

Over the past few years I’ve come to wonder if I was properly diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Sure, I match all the criteria, but is that what this truly is? There are so many other pain-related autoimmune disorders, and disorders that are pain-related and neurological. I wasn’t tested for the majority of them and it’s been a while since I was retested for Lyme Disease. In turn, I’ve decided to meet a new doctor and simply give him/her a list of my symptoms. I’d need to have blood work and tests done any way, so I’d rather start fresh and not even bring the word Fibromyalgia up to a new physician. I want someone to come back to me with a clear-cut diagnosis and a treatment plan. I don’t want to be jerked around. Nor do I want to be judged or treated like a drug addict for saying it. I haven’t been on prescription pain medication in five years. If I’d been addicted, it would have posed a serious problem. Instead, it was just an asshole doctor playing with my life. A doctor who lied to my face when I asked about his residency at a local hospital (it’s how I was referred to him, by a nurse that had worked with him). He’s the only doctor in the United States with that precise first, middle, and last name, so why lie about where you did your residency? It’s common knowledge with a little research. That wasn’t the only indication that something about him was off. Being dropped as a patient without warning was the icing on the cake after his in-office behavior.

My migraines have progressively gotten worse. I am currently on day ten of a migraine that has destroyed me. Each day I’m a little more hesitant to eat or drink, because anything can trigger my headaches now, and I simply don’t see any correlation between food, drink, and when I’ll get slammed with a headache. I can be okay for an hour or two, and the second I sit down to put the information into the migraine app, I get slammed with horrific head pain, nausea, etc. These are clear signs that I’m NOT okay and that I need to make sure a brain MRI is done soon. The last one I had was of my brain and spine. The brain scan is usually 35 minutes with and without contrast, but the spine takes longer and the position is extremely uncomfortable when you suffer from serious lower back pain. I ended up having a claustrophobic panic attack inside the machine. That had never happened to me before, so this time, I am going to make sure I’m armed with Valium, Xanax, or whatever a doctor can give me so I don’t have a meltdown in the middle of the test. I’m not usually claustrophobic at all, but I now know that MRI machines and snow storms cause me to go into pre-panic meltdowns at the mere thought. It’s the exact opposite of who I am, so it’s hard to explain why this is suddenly happening to me. I hope that whatever this is, it doesn’t not require surgery. I did some research and didn’t like what I found. 😦 This is precisely why I hate when people say “You could have this…” and I end up Googling it to educate myself on something I’ve never heard of before, only to convince myself of the “What Ifs”. A case of the “What Ifs” will only increase ones’ stress levels and anxiety, so why do people say shit like that”?! It’s one thing if I’m with someone and they’re displaying signs of a heart attack or stroke, in which case I am getting them an aspirin (for the former) and calling 911, regardless of which situation it may be. I don’t have to be anything more than concerned, and get them medical attention as quickly as possible.

The nicest thing a person can say when I’m suffering is “I’m concerned. Make an appointment and I will go with you.” If you’re going to say one thing and not mean it, then I’ll go whenever the fuck I go, but it won’t be on your terms.

I sit here this afternoon, really praying I don’t end up in the emergency room or at Urgent Care over a migraine. I’ll pretend that the stomach pain I’ve had on and off since Sunday is an abdominal migraine. I’ve never been diagnosed with them, but the symptoms come with a lot of my migraines these days, depending on the severity. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to put two and two together. In fairness, what will either place really do for me? Not a whole lot. I’d be lucky to leave with an abortive, like Relpax, and a referral to a neurologist. That doesn’t help me, but would they do blood work on site? Yes.

I’ve already had to cancel my appointment with a Physician’s Assistant due to transportation issues. I don’t feel good about that, but it’s a huge scheduling conflict. Not every appointment in my life can be at the crack of dawn, especially when I am having severe issues falling asleep and staying that way. An early morning appointment means no sleep for me until I return home, and that’s if I can sleep at all. It then screws up my schedule until a week’s worth of Melatonin can correct the problem. So unless I’m sleeping well, I don’t commit to appointments that early because I cannot guarantee I’ll be able to make them. If I’m awake at six in the morning, chances are I’m in pain or didn’t get an ounce of sleep. I’ve got allergy medicine knocking me out most nights, and kind that is marked “non-drowsy”, so I’m not being stubborn, but I am owning my limitations.

Normal walked out the door a long time ago. I can’t expect anything to give me my life back. All I can do is muddle through the pain and pray that someone will eventually hand me the correct diagnosis.

Wishing everyone who celebrate a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Have a good weekend, one and all.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Personal Year In Review

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I wish I had fabulous things to share here as I look back on 2016, the year itself as a complete “body of work”, as opposed to how I genuinely feel about it.

Here’s the unadulterated truth; I’m filled with mixed emotions, anger, pain, and the more I think about it, additional anger on top of the original anger, which is never a good sign. I make no apologies for my honesty. I’m many things in my imperfect human way, but dishonest isn’t on the list.

I take no issue with the company in my life, or lack thereof. I am a firm believer that we all go through hard times and that hard work, love, and prayer will get us through it. I take no issue with surviving (Life should be more than that though, right?) and having a few good days here and there (Though I am determined to not allow people to ruin my days when I’m feeling good and their moods aren’t meant for me. However, this is a process. It will not happen instantaneously.), but I do take issue with things outside my control.

I am a self-admitted control freak when it pertains to a lot of things in my life, and with other things, not so much. Overall, I’m tired of my best not being good enough, and having people remind me of my failures. Never look down upon someone unless you’re helping them up. Asking for help through tough times is not a grave sin. It’s honest, it’s real, and it’s admitting something vulnerable and scary is occurring that you cannot figure out how to face on your own. Why do we diminish that?!

I was raised to believe that as long as I do my best, it is always “good enough”, because it shows effort. And then I moved to another state where I know very few people, where “my best” is NEVER “good enough” because some unattainable level of perfection is expected at all times. It makes me feel like a bad Stepford Wife. 😦 I would not know what happiness was if a radioactive spider bit my ass. I haven’t known happiness in so long, it scares me. I feel emotions, yes, but happiness is almost never among them. How’s that for honest?

My brother has been through a torturous, evil kind of hell this year. I highly suspect that whatever was done to his heart set off a myriad of other health issues because I cannot recall a time when he wasn’t under the age of ten and on antibiotics as often as he’s been this year. He has been in and out of the hospital so many times that I’ve damn near had a multitude of nervous breakdowns every single time. I am currently waiting to hear back from a surgeon as he embarks on surgery number five in just slightly over a year; which is more surgery than he’s ever had in his entire life. It worries me on such a deep level, it’s difficult to convey.

I am immensely disheartened by how uncaring and unkind people are being towards him. At the beginning and end of each day, we only have so many family members in life, and as we’ve established, life is as short as it is long. My brother & I don’t have a lot of family, so we’ve had to rally around each other and be each other’s biggest support system through what has been, in essence, the gates of Hell. I may yell at him and get frustrated, I may say nasty things to him in the heat of the moment because he pushes my buttons, but ultimately, I’m not ignoring him or pretending he doesn’t exist in the hopes he’ll simply go away. I might not respond to a phone call or a text message when I’m sleeping, and sometimes I am guilty of ignoring him for a full twenty-four hours because I can’t handle the stress, but I do speak to my brother. I might not admit this to him, but he’s one of my best friends.

I say a painful goodbye to 2016, a year that has made me suffer in ways I can’t discuss; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I hope and pray that 2017 offers me more opportunities, better work, better pay, the same high-quality friendships I’ve maintained since day one (I’ve gotta say it; my friends are the BEST friends. They’re the first people to ask if I’m okay, to see through answers when I’m 100% NOT okay, and be as supportive as they can through crises. I would not have made it through parts of this year if it weren’t for the relationships in my life, both old and new, that have helped reinforce who I am as a person.), a real directional shift that leads me exactly where I need to be lead, and a year that allows me to achieve goals I have set for myself. The big goals, because at the moment, small goals aren’t cutting it.

I’d like to see some medical breakthroughs to help me better manage my pain and overall health. I was hit in the back with a shopping cart today at a local grocery store. This woman was on her cell phone and obviously thought she had enough room and/or didn’t even see me. I swear I am invisible to 99% of the “human race”. Initially my response was “Excuse YOU!”, but the lunatic just kept on walking, loudly debating stupidity on her phone. I did not feel it was worth pursuing in the moment, but now I am sorry I didn’t. I’m not sure if she did any real damage that wasn’t already there, but the level of pain I’m in is not something I want to take with me into the coming year, or any other year. I truly think CBD oil is in my future, as the “war on opiates” in this state is far too ridiculous to pursue with a doctor. I will, but I, like so many others, need a backup plan to help manage the pain in my life. No one should ever have to live like this.

Blessings to you all, as we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in what will hopefully a bright New Year! 

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

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The First Night Of Chanukah

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If one more person wishes me a “Merry Christmas”, I will hurt them. It’s very simple; I’m JEWISH. I feel like I’ve been over this a million times, but today I damn near lost my temper, so I’m going to reiterate this, but for the love of G-d, don’t make me do it twice.

Yes, believe it or not, there are religions that do not celebrate the same holidays that you may celebrate. There are religions that are much older. This is basic kindergarten knowledge, yet every single person I’ve come across for over a month now has made an assumption I don’t fucking like. I’ve spent weeks holding it in. I’ve been polite, I’ve been nondescript in my “Enjoy your holiday!” greetings to others, I sent out cards with genuine, handwritten messages to express how I feel about people in a loving fashion, but at this point, I’m just plain fed up.

Tonight just so happens to be the first night of Chanukah. So, while the Jews are celebrating the miracle of oil lasting for eight nights and surviving taking back our temple centuries ago (By the way, we’re still surviving and we are a religious minority.), and we do this in very individual ways, there is literally zero discussion among us of trees, lights on our homes, Santa, Jesus, etc. To learn more, here’s some info that you might find prudent in case you consider wishing me a “Merry Christmas” ever again:  CHANUKAH 

It’s one thing if you don’t know I’m Jewish, but I make myself pretty clear. I openly discuss Jewish holidays, Israel, traditions, etc. I am also Wiccan, and I openly discuss those holidays, too. But if you go through my feed, you will see zero mention of holidays pertaining to any other faith. There’s a valid reason for that, and to ensure I don’t insult anyone, I’ll keep my feelings to myself.

I will always be respectful of those who show me respect and kindness, but damn, I am SO tired of correcting people. I know they mean well, really, but it drives me insane, so I’m putting my foot down. You can call me names (I’m sure plenty of people will.), but ultimately, respect the simple fact that I don’t celebrate Christmas. Wish me a Happy Chanukah (there are many different spellings out there, so it’s easy to confuse one with another) with the same genuineness as “Merry Christmas”. The big difference between your religion and mine is that Jews don’t believe in Jesus. There are other things we don’t believe as well, but that’s really the major one. There’s no lack of faith in G-d, we believe, just differently than you do. Also, we don’t go around trying to convert you. We’re pretty “live and let live”.

So tonight, I’d like to thank the people who honored me with cards & gifts. I genuinely appreciate the generosity and love.

Here’s hoping I never have to mention this again, because if I do, I’m re-posting an article I wrote a few years ago about what I do on Christmas Day. Frankly, I might post it tomorrow for shits and giggles.

To everyone celebrating whatever they believe in tonight; may peace and love be at the core of all you do. Blessed Be.

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

 

Silence, Leaf Blowers, & Sunday Dinner

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Waking up this morning, I had a plan. Thus far, that plan is at a standstill as I am still dealing with yesterday’s migraine. In turn, all I wanted was silence, in all its perfect glory. This, of course, is where the leaf blowers come in, and threaten to make me sicker.

After doing some mundane things earlier on in the day, the sound of three (I wish I were joking) leaf blowers on my property became unbearable. I was in the kitchen at the time doing some early prep for Sunday dinner, otherwise I might not have heard them in the back of the house, which is where I do most of my work.

I glanced out a window after a while because the noise was getting louder and closer, and there were no less than six people on my front lawn, three of whom had leaf blowers. I cannot tell you how annoyed I was, but I decided to let it go. If you can’t shoot people for being idiots, you might as well let them look like the idiots they truly are as they mind someone else’s business on a suburban street for all to see.

Yesterday my vile next door neighbor took it upon herself, as she does every Fall, to break out the leaf blower and blow every leaf off of her property onto mine. She blew them halfway to the middle of the front lawn, as if they magically got there on their own. Who does that, you ask? Someone not entirely sane.

She pretended she didn’t see me go to the mailbox before she started this nonsense, that I hadn’t answered a question when her husband stopped me to ask about my brother’s surgery, as he visited him in the hospital last week, and that she had not seen me Friday night when I came home from running errands. She was too busy gossiping, but believe me when I say her eyes are always on me and my business. As my brother would say “Don’t watch me, watch TV.”

Today, she did the same thing with the leaves, except this time she, her husband, and several other members of her family bagged the leaves up, because apparently they have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning. There are eighteen bags of leaves sitting at the end of my driveway, as if she did a good, neighborly thing out of some semblance of goodness that I can attest, does not exist. She put three bags in front of her driveway and the rest in front of mine, as if I am blind. She wants it to be obvious that she did it, but I’m smart enough to know her motives.

Don’t get me wrong, if this was a genuine move, I would be quite appreciative. I cannot afford to be an ungrateful bitch, and I’m not. However, she knew I was home. There were two cars in the driveway before she started and after she finished. There are several other houses on this street that could have used her brand of “assistance”. The neighbor next door lost her husband in April and is having a difficult time. I would think it would make a hell of a lot more sense to help her as she’s visibly struggling with such a severe loss, so believe me when I say this was far from genuine. If I were going to help someone, I would be doing the yard work for the other neighbor whose husband used to do to it for her and their family. That, at least, makes sense.

Here’s the issue, apart from my desperately needing quiet; This isn’t her house. If the leaves from my trees bother her, tough shit. They aren’t hurting anything or anyone, and there is no mandate in this township that says when or if you must bag up leaves or not. It is November, and it’s early November at that. The leaves can be bagged up for pick-up, if one chooses, well into mid-December. Generally the majority of mine get removed in early Spring because I’m not so OCD that it needs to be perfect. In fact, I’d prefer the chipmunks have leaves lying around in case they need them. Moreover, I have more important things to think about at the moment, and raking leaves is extremely low on the totem pole of thought. But hey, if she wants to waste over two hours, have at it. It will get colder, the wind will continue to blow, because hurricane season is not yet finished, and she’ll be back at it in a week or two weeks from now because both trees out front are FULL of leaves. They’re going to keep falling. It makes no sense to bag leaves up more than once, if one is going to do it at all.

Instead of treating me like a human-being that exists, she does this because the leaves bother her (God forbid a leaf get on her new car! The woman, I kid you not, threw a party to show her new car off to anyone and everyone, as if she hadn’t been driving a relatively new car before this. Did you just shake your head at the craziness of such a stunt? It’s very similar to driving around with the sale’s sticker on your car for months.), and what’s more, it bothers her that I do not say a word to her, not in English any way. I lack the ability to be polite to people once I’ve seen their true colors. I’m contemplating slipping a note under her husband’s windshield wiper when I go out tomorrow morning to thank him for bagging up the leaves, despite the fact that I know he wouldn’t do all that work on his own since he’s due for knee replacement surgery any day now. She thinks she’s being cute, but she has no idea who she’s screwing with. I should have taken video or photos, because if you’d seen the behavior as she barked orders at her minions, I mean family, you’d understand my reaction. I strongly suggest she see a doctor and get her medication adjusted.

Now that it is quieter, I am still hearing leaf blowers (and lawn mowers) throughout the neighborhood. It’s kind of like dogs that all bark in sync the second the mailman is on the street. If I knew where my ear plugs were, I might be able to quell some of the nausea the noise is inducing.

On the flip side, I LOVE preparing Sunday dinner, but since it’s just me (my brother won’t be eating solid food for quite some time and Case Study #2 is on his way to the airport.), I broke it up into three meals to prolong the culinary delights. I still have mushrooms to saute, some additional veggies to chop, and the centerpiece of it all to throw together. If I can get my stomach to settle down, dinner will be awesome and continue to be awesome for a few nights. 🙂

I have so many friends who don’t understand my love for cooking (My cousin once asked me how to make corn on the cob. I tried hard not to laugh as I explained the simplicity of it.), or who don’t cook at all, which is why I’m the one that feeds them when they visit, or when I visit them. Cooking is merely another art form I enjoy, it’s a skill set that not all people have. That doesn’t mean I don’t scoff when a friend of over 20 years happens to let me know that she’s learning how to cook for her husband. I had to explain that when cooking, you need to cleanse the palate in order to be able to taste what it is you are making and gauge the seasoning accordingly. When I received a giggly, moronic response, I rolled my eyes and have tried my level best to keep my mouth shut since. If you’re public with your stupidity, or you advertise it via social media, don’t expect me to pretend I didn’t just hear what you said. Don’t hand-feed the writer material!

And on that note my loves, I am off to the kitchen once more to put all of the finishing touches on one of my favorite meals. Buon appetito! 🙂

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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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.

Silver Linings

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At this particular point in time, I am having difficulties seeing the silver linings. Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it sucks. We’ve all experienced this. I’m not quite certain what to do when it’s predominantly sucky.

I work hard, but there is always a problem that arises and it’s always something I have to fix. It makes almost all aspects of life, outside of a handful of things, completely miserable, moving straight into unbearable. When does it end? 😦

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At a severe low point, I called a suicide prevention hotline. I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that. I do, however, feel incredible outrage by how I was treated by this hotline that will willingly accept my donations, and yours, but refused to so much as help me when I wasn’t very far away from my personal ledge.

The person who took my call was already on the phone with someone “in a more severe crisis”. I have no idea how she knew this other person was in a more severe situation than I was because the first thing she did was put me on hold for about 30 minutes. Let me reiterate that she never even bothered to ask me if I was all right and in a safe place before she did that. She finally comes back on the line and says that the other call is more important and I should try calling back later. She didn’t ask where my head space was, NOTHING. She spewed the call back later crap and hung up. Even if you’re short-handed, even if you’re a volunteer, that isn’t the way to treat anyone who is calling a suicide prevention line. Clearly, they’re not calling for shits and giggles, it takes courage to make that call. I hung up with my jaw wide open, feeling even more betrayed by the world. It was a gut punch. “Wow! Even the suicide prevention hotline can’t prioritize me for half a second before hanging up!” If I wanted to be treated that way, I have family for that.

Earlier this year a now former friend asked me via text message if I “needed professional help”. Instead of understanding that I was in a bad place and needed support, she ended up blowing me off and later “broke up” with me via e-mail. I thought we’d be friends a very long time, so I was understandably blown away by the dramatic behavior and inability to show compassion to another human-being. I will never name names, but I am also at that point where forgiveness is not an option. You only get one chance with me. (Other things did occur towards the end, but I will never discuss any of that because it’s private. If the other person chooses to say something, they would be wrong.)

Telling me you’re worried about me via text message doesn’t convey care or concern. It’s just words. Picking up the fucking phone and saying “I know you’re not okay. I’m here for you.” is a better way to let anyone know that you’re truly there for them.

One of the biggest issues with cell phones and tablets is that no one talks to each other or communicates properly. The other day a woman took a call in front of me from her mother. Her mother wanted to argue and she said “Lets discuss this in person. There is no need to have this conversation over the phone. I will see you in a few hours.” She repeated the same statement several times because apparently she was dealing with a stubborn parent. When she hung up she said she HATED how people misconstrue things via text, e-mail, and sometimes even over the phone. She was totally on my level, saying how she’d rather be face-to-face with certain people because that way, there’s no misunderstanding whatsoever. It was incredibly refreshing.

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I cannot speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. If I sense that someone is going through a rough time, whether they voice it or not, they don’t have to ask me to be a good friend or family member, because I do not lack common sense. I am not the world’s most compassionate soul (I openly admit that.), and I will never win awards for my niceness (The niceness gene died at age 12.), but I am emotionally present. That’s more than I can say for a great many people in my life and those I’ve chosen to get rid of.

If you love your friends, you fight for them. Their well-being is important to you and you don’t need to be insulting in order to get your point across. The same is true for family. I come from a very large extended family, but at the end of the day, they are almost exclusively people I happen to be related to (Who are banned from future book signings and appearances. LOL.). They’re not my everyday “I’ve got your back”, “Don’t worry about it.”, “No problem, I’ll help you.” family. There’s an immense difference. I have friends and family I’d do anything for, but with the rest… I’d break out the marshmallows if they were on fire.

Ultimately, not everyone you know is a good person down to roots of their soul. If you find those that are good, don’t let them go over petty idiocy. Learn how to say “I’m sorry” when you’re wrong or when you’ve hurt someone. Learn how to admit you don’t know it all. Be yourself, be real, GROW.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. So, I employ a “live and let live” policy. If you’re good to me, I will appreciate that and I will say so. If you’re a piece of shit to me, eventually I will make sure you know what I think of you. Or I won’t be so bothered as to waste the oxygen, that all depends on my mood.

If you’re a part of my life, I am grateful to have you in it. I keep my circle of friends close because of the value I place upon the element of friendship. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have true friends, and I really don’t trust women who don’t have at least 1-3 close female friends. It’s a red flag. Kind of like a man at a bar that still has a tan line where his wedding band should be, but tells you he’s single or how horrible his “soon-to-be” ex-wife is. Unless you see divorce papers, he’s full of crap and is a married man who hasn’t stopped dating.

I’m eternally appreciative that I am one of those rare people who truly doesn’t care if people like me or not. I spend no time at all wondering what others think of me as a person. Those that take the time to get to know me on a deeper level are the ones that benefit from my fierce loyalty and “ride or die” friendship. Those that burn me clearly don’t know that, like the Phoenix, I will always rise again.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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