My name is Brandy, and I am a survivor of domestic abuse. Whew. I said it.
This was me, at age 16. It seems like a million years ago now....I may look like I was happy in this photo, and I was...For a time. I was blissfully unaware of what the next several years had in store for me, and that the man who took this photo would take this happy girl's spirit and completely break it down until she was merely a shell of a person.
Before I tell my story, I want to say that this is not a post to bash my ex. I have no desire to identify him or to make his life difficult. In fact, I want absolutely nothing to do with him on any level, unless it's absolutely necessary. And even then, my husband does most of the talking. My ex can't bully or intimidate my husband, so we have found that Dan being the middle-man works well when communication is necessary.
I can honestly say that I wish my ex well, and hope that no other woman is ever treated the way that I was at his hands. I hope that by losing his wife and his family, he has taken a long, hard look at what he has done, and that he has changed. In some ways, I think this is an empty wish...I mean, do abusers ever really change, or is it something deep-seeded within them that causes them to be the way they are? Or did we simply just bring out the absolute worst in each other? I don't know. I will never know. And that's okay. I have been remarried to a wonderful man who treats me like gold for almost 7 years now...So I suppose, some questions don't really need answering.
In many ways, my first marriage is ancient history. In other ways, however, it still haunts me. It has changed the very core of my being in ways that I wish I could reverse. But I can't. I just have to learn to accept the damage that has been done and find ways to move forward.
One year ago today, I lost someone very special to me. Debby West was my middle school chorus teacher. Yes, she taught me about the notes on the page and how to breathe from the diaphragm, but she did so much more than that....She was more than just my teacher, although the lessons she taught me about life and love were invaluable, and have stayed with me throughout the years.
Debby West was my friend, and honestly, the closest thing to a mother I have ever had. My home life as a teen was pretty rough...I was surrounded by addiction, and certainly didn't have much love or support. Like many teens in a bad situation, I lashed out. I wore all black, dyed my hair funny colors, hung out with the wrong crowd, and did a lot of things that were pretty self-destructive. My immature thinking at the time was, "If no one else cares about me, why should I?"
Mrs. West saw my struggles, and she took me under her wing. She was there for me when no one else was. She gave me rides to work, invited me caroling in her neighborhood during the Holiday season, and always offered a great big hug and a shoulder to cry on, when needed. She always told me I was the daughter she never had....The feeling was mutual.
Even after I became an adult, and had children of my own, my friendship with Mrs. West was a constant. Something I could rely on, even when things seemed hopeless. She was there for me through ups and downs. She was there for me when I was stuck in an abusive marriage, and she rejoiced with me when I remarried a wonderful man who treats me like gold. She celebrated the births of my children, and all of their milestones. Even though we lived hundreds of miles apart, Mrs. West was always an e-mail or a phone call away.
Then one year ago today, my world fell apart. My "Mama Hen" was gone. It felt like a part of my heart was gone, too. Family isn't always about biology, after all....So in a sense, I had lost a mother. No, she didn't give birth to me, but she loved me, encouraged me, and helped mold me into the person I am today. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Today, I just can't seem to shake the grief. They say time makes things like loss easier, and to a degree, it does. But it still hurts. I have so many regrets. I wish I could have seen her one last time...Hugged her...Took my kids to see her in Delaware, and build sandcastles on the beach. There was always something that prevented us from making that trip...It was usually money or scheduling. I thought I had plenty of time. Time. That's almost laughable now. Time is not guaranteed, and even if someone seems perfectly fine one day, tomorrow is not promised.
Most of all, I regret not telling her how much I loved her. What a difference she made in my life. That without her guidance and love, I may have gone down a very dark path in my youth. SHE was my guardian angel. She saved my life, in ways I didn't even realize at the time.
Thank you, Mrs. West. Thank you for your love. For the music. For being my friend and Pseudo-Mom. For not giving up on me, and for not letting me give up on myself.
You are still so loved. And so very, very missed. I'm sorry I never got the chance to tell you how much you meant to me...
But somehow, I have the strange feeling that, wherever you are, you already know.
Okay, so I am admittedly a crazy cat lady. We have 4 cats, and I just can't get enough of them. It's funny because most of my life I assumed I hated felines....I had terrible allergies to them, for one. It was BAD. My throat would close up, my eyes would burn and water, I'd sneeze like crazy, and I would even break out into hives if I touched a kitty. Also, I had the incorrect assumption that all cats are evil bastards. (My mom had cats when I was growing up, and almost ALL of them were just plain mean!)
Anyway, when we moved here to Ohio, we started to experience all 4 seasons, and distinctly so. Fall and winter get incredibly bitter here, which causes all the mice to seek indoor shelter. Meaning in MY house. We found a few mice in the kitchen. Literally every single time I'd open the pantry, I'd see a mouse. It was more than one, too, since every time we saw one, we would dispose of it as humanely as possible. I wouldn't use poison because I have kids and dogs, and the traps were a hazard to curious little fingers.
So after being unable to find a way to rid our pantry of mice once and for all, I called my husband at work and told him we needed a cat. Which shocked the hell out of him since he knew I supposedly despised cats. We got one kitty, Noodles, and she immediately started killing off the mice. She loved hunting them down and toying with them. I grew quite attached and was thrilled that the mice decided to vacate the premises.
So we ended up rescuing 3 more cats, one of whom was on Death Row in a crowded NYC shelter and had a New Hope Only rating. This basically means that she is deemed almost unadoptable because she showed fear and aggression when they waved a giant rubber hand in her face while she was cooped up in a tiny little shelter cage. She also had a URI, which basically always condemns cats at this shelter to euthanasia. She was scheduled to die the next morning, and we learned about her at about 8:00PM. Thankfully, I was able to provide vet references, find a 3 day foster, and arrange transport from NYC here to Ohio. Pringles is now happy, healthy, and not the aggressive kitty we first met.
Anyway, lately, probably for the past month or so, I have been seeing this gorgeous gray cat hanging around my yard. I'd see her during the day as well as at night. We have motion sensor lights, and when they go off, I always step out onto my deck to investigate.
Today, my husband noticed the kitty and was surprised that she didn't retreat. She just sat there in the middle of the yard. I had explained to him that I had been seeing a lot of that cat, and he suggested that we give her some food.
When we brought out a plate with some cat food on it, we were shocked to see not only the one cat, but 2 tiny kittens with her. So it's a mama kitty and her babies, and they're obviously living on my property. I'd estimate the little ones to be about 8 weeks old or so. We put the food down and backed away, and immediately all the cats came right out into the open and started eating. They allowed us to get very close, too. Mama cat kept a watchful eye, but meowed at us and showed no real signs of aggression. Just a little skittishness, as they are feral.
So we've decided to help this mama and continue to feed her kitty family. We're also going to make some cat shelters for inclement or cold weather, and take them to the vet to be spayed and neutered and get them some vaccinations. Even outdoor kitties deserve to be cared for, in my opinion.
The kids have decided to name them Blueberry, Butterfinger, and Praline. Here are some pics. I am thinking that they will become much more comfortable with us as time goes on.
Okay, so many of you know, I suffer from pretty severe social anxiety and had a mini-meltdown a couple of weeks ago because I was absolutely TERRIFIED of going to my brother's wedding. (Terrified is actually a bit of an understatement...The idea of being around SO many people I don't know had me in a state of absolute panic.)
I just wanted to update and let you all know how the day went, as well as thank everyone for all of the kind, supportive words. Social anxiety makes a person feel very, very alone....You didn't let that happen, and the outpouring of sincere words made me feel anything but.
Well, my brother was married on Saturday. Due to an oversight regarding the day's plans, we had 20 minutes to get ready. You see, my husband was in the wedding party, and had to show up early for photos and to help the groom get ready for the big event. So we got a text message at 12:50PM, when we were still in PJ's, saying "See you at 2:00". Yikes!
So we rushed and rushed. I didn't have time to do my hair and almost panicked when I couldn't find my scary granny-panty-tummy-sucker-inner thingamobob. (Hey, I have had 3 c-sections and wanted to hide the evidence of that!) We rushed out the door and I had to put on make-up in the car. Which was awkward, since we've still got lots of residual potholes here in Ohio after our especially brutal winter. Thankfully, I didn't accidentally stab myself in the eyeball with a mascara wand.
Here's a pic in the car on the way to the first location. You may not be able to tell, but I was about to puke. Seriously.
We actually arrived before the groom, and had the chance to walk around the grounds and enjoy the nice weather as we waited for others to arrive. Here is a selfie of me and my husband before the festivities began. And yes, I was still about to puke.
Once all of the wedding party arrived, it was time to head into the hotel to help the groom, my little brother, get ready. He was nervous,too, so I felt right at home. My husband, one of the groomsmen, looked wonderful in his suit. You know, I have never seen him in one, and I have known him since I was 13 years old. He's more of a blue-collar guy, so he doesn't dress up much.
Yes, I hung out with the guys as they got ready. I know. Weird. But I have always been more "one of the guys", so I was pretty comfortable. Until I had to go see the bride and bridesmaids. My confidence started to wane and I got choked up and almost started crying. It's weird, but I have ALWAYS been very intimidated by other women. Especially when they're about 10 years younger than me, thin, and drop-dead gorgeous. Which all of the bridesmaids were. Ugh.
So of course, I immediately started to feel totally inadequate and rather Shrek-like....Of course they didn't really even speak to me, with the exception of the bride, and I did my best to remain invisible while in the brides' quarters.
Boy was I glad to get back to the guys! And grateful when my Dad handed me a glass of Scotch. I don't even particularly like Scotch, but at least it was super-smooth and helped with my nerves.
Then we headed outside to get shots of the wedding party on the groom's side. Here they are, looking rather spiffy. From left to right, it's my husband, the bride's father, my Dad, my brother the groom, and the bride's brother. I tried to stay out of the way, and was very surprised when my brother told the photographer, "I want a photo with my sister." It almost made me cry! (I don't have that photo yet.)
Then we were on the way to the wedding venue. The decor was beautiful, and I got choked up when I saw the way my brother looked at his bride as she walked down the aisle. She was absolutely glowing... Seriously, she couldn't have been any more stunning.
The ceremony was performed by a friend of theirs, and they even worked in a Harry Potter reference, which I loved. He also told the couple that one of the keys to marriage is learning to say "I'm sorry" and learning to forgive. Of course he did say to my brother that HE would be the one apologizing most often, which got a good laugh from everyone attending. This sounds so dumb, but I was crying during the whole thing...My baby brother, the same annoying little boy who used to try and kill me with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles weapons, was going to be a husband. I was just so thrilled for them, and the waterworks came out of nowhere. I guess I am just a sap like that!
After my brother kissed his gorgeous new wife, the bridal party headed off to get more photos taken. Which meant I was on my own. Dan had to go, too. I was pretty nervous and made awkward small talk. There was an open bar, and while I do not drink often, I did have a couple of cocktails to tame my nerves. I ended up chatting with cousins, like the one below, aunts and uncles, and even some of the bride's family, who I had never met before. I was functioning socially, without my husband acting as my "security blanket."
After awhile, the bridal party returned and it was time for dinner. They served some delicious bread and veggies, along with an amazing Brie-stuffed chicken and Prime Rib. Dan started the meal at the head table, but after the toasts were given, he made his way over to me. I'm not even gonna lie...I was relieved to have him back!
After everyone ate, it was time to open the bar back up and hit the dance floor. As the new couple had their first dance, we all watched them...They looked so happy, hopeful, and completely in love. Just as it should be as they embark on their new life together.
We spent the next few hours talking, dancing, eating and drinking. My Dad, who was not present at my very small, totally informal wedding, scooped me up for a Father-Daughter dance. (I think it made my stepmom cry.) He will get another chance, though, to do it right. Dan and I have always wanted a "real wedding", and plan to have a vow-renewal ceremony. My dad even offered up his own huge yard for the occasion and said we'd have a BBQ after. Guess I need to start planning!
So I survived. I made it through a situation, largely without my husband's help, and I did okay. Many people said they couldn't even tell I was suffering from some pretty extreme anxiety. (And I can't even lie...There were moments that I just wanted to hide in the corner and become invisible.)
We had a wonderful time. I did something I didn't think I could do in a million years. I faced a very uncomfortable situation and got through it without a major panic attack. As someone who suffers from extreme, crippling anxiety, this was a HUGE deal.
But more importantly, I gained a sister. My brother couldn't have chosen a sweeter, more intelligent, or more beautiful woman to spend his life with. I never thought my brother would be the "settling down" type. After meeting Angie, I could see why he fell head over heels in love.
I am so absolutely thrilled that my children have a new auntie, and even more thrilled that my brother has found his soul mate. You can just see the love they share on their faces and in the way they look at each other. Love is a beautiful thing, and these guys clearly have an abundance.
Here's hoping they have many, many wonderful years together as man and wife. Oh! A little birdie told me they're thinking about children, too! So that means I would become an aunt! And you'd better believe their kiddos will be incredibly loved and spoiled by their Auntie Brandy,lol
Here are the bride and groom enjoying their first dance. Isn't my new sister gorgeous! My little brother definitely did good!
I just wanted to share how things went since I had so many amazing and supportive replies when my anxiety was through the roof. I was so comforted to see that I am not the only one who suffers from social anxiety. I had my moments, but I made it through the wedding and had a fantastic time. If I can do it, ANYONE can.
Thanks again for all the kindness and support, and I hope everyone had a great Father's Day weekend!
****Warning: I am having a VERY rough time right now as far as my social anxiety goes, and I have no one to talk to. No one ever seems to "get it". So I am dumping my feelings here, just to get it out. So I apologize if this isn't all rainbows and butterflies. I just need to vent.****
Okay, so those who know me in real life know that I suffer from pretty extreme social anxiety. If you'd like to know the exact diagnosis, it's social anxiety paired with PTSD. Now I always thought that PTSD was something seen in soldiers who witnessed horrific things while deployed to war-torn areas. Apparently, while that certainly does happen all too often, PTSD can affect anyone who has suffered from traumatic events.
For me, according to the therapist, it was growing up with an addict as a parent and then going through an extremely abusive marriage. You see, to escape my home life, which was pretty awful, I got married WAY too young to a man who ended up being incredibly controlling, as well as physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive. I rarely went a day without being told how worthless I was, and my ex got pleasure out of causing me anguish. When he would hurt me or make me cry, he'd get this sickening look in his eyes and a little smirk of satisfaction. The running joke was that he could put me into a wood-chipper and no one would ever find my body. He also threatened to gouge my eyes out with a spoon....And a lot of other things.
I know this sounds extreme, and it was. This man also held a gun on me, and for all intents and purposes held me hostage in my own home when I was just 17 years old. The police were called and they ended up swarming my home with guns drawn and thankfully I was not harmed. Sadly, I couldn't go home to my parents so after a couple months of being homeless, I took him back. I had nowhere else to go. And I wanted to believe that he loved me, and that things would change.
So I was basically trapped in this relationship. Or at least that's how it felt when I was that young. For several more years I was subject to his tormenting. I was also controlled almost completely. I couldn't have friends, male OR female, because that would surely mean I was cheating. I had to literally sneak around to talk to anyone....How unhealthy is that?! After all, I was just a worthless woman, and women can't be trusted. (According to him.) I couldn't really even talk to family a lot of the time, since that had its consequences as well. He would even make it a point to ridicule me, telling me that even my own mother didn't want me. (Which was completely true...I didn't really have a mother, since alcoholism and drug addiction ran her life.)
I was allowed to work, as long as he approved the job, and I had to hand my paychecks directly to him, since as a woman, I certainly couldn't handle any finances. (That still cracks me up considering I am solely responsible for budgeting, paying bills, and doing our taxes now. And I do a damn good job of it, too.)
That man controlled me completely, and sapped me of any and all self-esteem. After years and years of being called ugly, worthless, etc,, you begin to believe it. Even years out of that situation, his voice is still in my head telling me that no one could possibly like me because I'm a worthless human being. I guess that's what abusers do....Tear a person's soul apart, bit by bit, until all that's left is a meek, timid, shell of a human being. I suppose it's easier to control a person when they're reduced to nothing.
Now let me clarify: I am not blaming my mother or my ex. I made my own choices. I CHOSE to stay with a man who was awful to me. I CHOSE not to run like hell and never look back early on...I did that. Even if it was completely out of fear, that was a choice that I made. I take responsibility for that. I am just explaining how I was diagnosed with PTSD, since it's not something you commonly associated with a wife and mother in her early 30's who has never been in the military.
Now it's several years later. I have remarried and have a wonderful husband who treats me very well. I also have 2 more amazing children. You would think that the years of abuse I suffered would be nothing more than a memory. I wish it were that simple. You see, I am still affected by this, and in ways that I hate. I am very unsure of myself a lot of the time, and I have it in my head that no one would ever like me. I have the constant fear that I am not good enough...Not smart enough...Not pretty enough...and the list goes on and on.
This fear is crippling, and it keeps me from getting too close to people. I don't have many true friends, and no one I can call up and go to lunch with. In fact, being in social situations is rather crippling. The anxiety I feel is pretty severe, and it's even been bad enough to make me physically ill. So I stay in my comfortable little "bubble" and just interact with people online. Of course my husband is my best friend, and he is amazing....But I still wish that I had people outside of my own home to confide in and have normal friendships with. I NEED that....I crave it. But I have a very hard time reaching out to people.
Social anxiety is something that no one really understands unless they've been there themselves. All too often, I am told to just "shake it off" and "get over it". DON'T YOU THINK I WISH I COULD?! It's not that easy. I can't just snap out of it. I can't just make my own fear and intense feelings of inadequacy disappear. I wish I could. I really, really wish I could.
My social anxiety is destroying my life, little bits at a time.
For example, we have a wedding to go to in a couple of weeks. Normally, that would be okay, since I would just cling to my husband the whole time. He's my "security blanket", so to speak. When I am with him, I feel a lot calmer and am usually able to get through social occasions without losing it. Well, I won't be able to do that this time. Dan, my husband, is in the wedding party. (Which makes no sense to me as he never even talks to the groom....Even he was a bit surprised that he was asked.) So he will have to head to the venue long before I do, and I won't be able to sit with him during the ceremony or at dinner.
This may seem trivial to most of you, but it has me in a total state of panic. I don't really know anyone that will be there. Not well, at least, and the idea of being on my own in such a large crowd has me literally petrified with fear. I have been crying non-stop, my stomach has been in knots, and I am absolutely dreading what should be a happy occasion.
So I am faced with 2 choices here...I can go to the wedding and attempt to tough it out, knowing damn well that I will more than likely be shaking like a leaf and probably have to leave the building to keep a full on anxiety attack from happening, which would definitely ruin the day for others. No one needs to see me totally lose my shit. For one, that wouldn't be fair to the bride and groom, and two, that would be super embarrassing for me. It could ruin the occasion, and I don't want to do that....
Or, I can stay home with my kids, which would then make me look like an uncaring bitch. (Which I'm definitely not.) But that's how it would look, since no one seems to understand how incredibly debilitating this condition is. They laugh it off and tell me to get over it. Obviously staying home is the more comfortable option as far as my anxiety goes, but that would end up royally pissing off my entire family.
So basically, I'm screwed no matter what I do. It's a losing battle, no matter what I end up choosing to do. I just can't do it by myself, and the idea of not having my husband with me to keep me calm is utterly terrifying for me.
Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds. It's just a wedding. I know that I shouldn't be so damn petrified. It's not about me at all., nor should it be. I know that. I should just go and deal with it. Rationally, I know that. But I can't seem to be able to rope in my anxiety, and it's literally making me sick.
And no one understands. No one ever understands. Social anxiety is no joke, and it's a pretty lonely existence for those who suffer with it. I wish I could make it go away. I wish I could wake up one day and be a brand new person, free of this self-doubt and fear.
I wish people would help me get through this...Call me up just to talk...Meet up for lunch or dinner, or just to take the kids to the park. Anything...It's so hard for me to reach out, and I wish someone would hand me a lifeline...I wish someone would see me for the good person that I am and make an effort to get to know me. I wish people would understand that I desperately want to get past this and live a normal life, but that initiating contact is just so damn hard for me. I don't want to feel like I am bothering anyone.
But my phone doesn't ring. No one invites me to all the fun stuff. No one gets it. And it breaks my heart every single day.
This is what social anxiety looks like. It's very real, and it's very hard to deal with.
If you've made it this far, thanks for "listening".
So...We just had some pretty vicious thunderstorms roll through town. Hellacious winds, loads of lightning, deafening thunder...The works. Someone, I am not naming any names here, (Cough, cough, KYLE, cough) forgot to close the umbrella on the patio table when he was done sitting on the deck. Well, the umbrella got caught in a strong gust of wind and pulled our entire table across the deck, shattering the glass in the process. And of course, I have 2 deadlines coming up quickly that involve outdoor entertaining. FML. Praying for super-fast shipping!
Okay, not ancient...I'm not starting to look like Joan Rivers or anything. But I'm not young, either. I will be 33 next month, and for some reason, this just doesn't seem real to me.
It seems that it wasn't too terribly long ago that I was a rebellious teen on auto-pilot down the path to self-destruction. A mall rat hanging out with a rough crowd, doing things I'd never, ever in a thousand years allow my own kids to get away with. It seems like yesterday. Really, it does.
33. Okay. As a number itself, it doesn't seem that bad. 33 is not 50, and it's WAY less than 100. And compared to a BILLION, it's an insignificant speck of a number.
But, when you're talking human lifespan, 33 is definitely a full-grown adult. Jesus died at 33, I believe. (Don't necessarily quote me on that. While I believe in God and have plenty of faith, I do not subscribe to any specific religion.) So assuming that He lived for 33 years, Jesus was able to live more than any of us ever will. If you believe in Jesus' existence, of course.
33. Wow. Some of my favorite artists died younger than 33. In fact, all of the following died at just 27 years old. Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse....They led very full (and yes, destructive) lives, and experienced more in their short life than I ever have.
33 years. In that time, I suppose I have experienced a lot. My childhood and teen years weren't so great, and I went through a lot of things no kid ever should.....As a very young adult, I was in an incredibly abusive marriage. But the dark periods of my life have taught me to be stronger, wiser, and kinder.
I have a wonderful old home to restore and raise my family in, and it's located in my little hometown, the only place I've ever wanted to be.
I am married to my best friend and the love of my life. Now I DID know him when I was a kid, and it just occurred to me that he's old, too!
I have a teenager I couldn't be more proud of, even though teens are horrid creatures with nasty temperments at times. My baby is going to high school this fall. How did that little boy with a baby face and big blue eyes turn into a young man? Where did my snuggle-buddy go, and why has he been replaced by this person who is taller than me, who I can't scoop up into my arms anymore?
And my little ones. Sophie and Xander. I joke and say that I had them when I was "old enough to have a baby". (I had my oldest at almost 19.) My little ones definitely benefit from the fact that Mommy is a bit wiser with age. I am a bit of a helicopter mom, and I try and make the best decisions for our family, like choosing organic foods and natural household products. When I was younger, I didn't give a second thought to things like this. I guess age, along with becoming a mother, changed me.
But seriously....Where do all the years go? How does time fly by so quickly? How do we change as human beings without even realizing it? I feel like the same person I was as a teen, but I know that I am incredibly different. My values have changed...My thought-process has changed...My heart has changed. And it happened without me even noticing it.
Okay. So 33. I guess it's not too bad, after all.
Okay, so while I am certainly not shy online, I am PAINFULLY shy in person. To the point that I dread any sort of gathering, get together, or crowded place. Even family get-togethers are nerve-wrecking. Sure, I usually have some fun while I am participating, but I am a hot mess leading up to it. And then I end up feeling awkward and wanting to go home.
For example, if I were to walk into the club, this would be me:
Except I don't really go to clubs. I'm more of a dive bar, live music kinda gal. And I am a short, caucasian woman who definitely couldn't rock the dreads like that guy. (Those ARE dreads, right? I can't quite tell for sure.)
Anyway, social anxiety can be downright crippling sometimes. Sure, I have a lot less drama to deal with being an introvert, but I also have no one to talk to. No one to go grab lunch with. No one to call just to chat with. Having social anxiety is like living in a bubble of sorts. Sure, my bubble is totally awesome, but sometimes I wish I could learn to step outside of it without feeling horribly nervous and self-conscious. Or maybe sharing my happy little bubble with more people. That would be nice, too.
I used to be outgoing. Hell, I was a complete bad-ass as a teenager. Nerves? Forget about it. I would say anything that was on my mind without a moment's hesitation. But I think everything changed when I married my ex-husband way too young. (Why my parents allowed me to marry an absolute tyrant before the age of 18, I will never know.) My mind was not fully matured yet, so of course being in an abusive relationship changed me to the core. The fun, vivacious, relatively fearless girl I once was disappeared, and she was replaced with someone meek, afraid, and insecure. I mean, if you're basically cut off from the rest of the world for years and told constantly how worthless you are, after awhile you become programmed to believe it. Even many years out of that nightmare of a relationship, I still hear that voice in my head. It infuriates me that a man I have worked so hard to escape still has any influence over my thoughts and self-esteem. I guess it can take years to get over that, if one ever truly does.
Anyway, this is not a post about my first marriage. I have no interest in bashing my ex. I am remarried to an amazing man and have a beautiful family. I am happy with so many parts of my life, and no matter how often I recall the ex telling me I was unworthy of love, I know he was wrong. I have more love around me than I ever dreamed possible.
But I do wish that I could feel more confident in social situations. I wish I could form real friendships....Ones that exist beyond my computer screen. Since we moved here to Ohio, it's been really hard to meet people. I am home all day with the kids, and we don't really go out a whole lot. Of course when we DO get the chance to get out, I'm not the type to just go chat up a group of strangers.
I have to admit, it gets lonely. Don't get me wrong...I love my life. I have a great marriage, amazing kids, and tons of interests. I just find myself wishing I could find a way to shake this shyness and allow myself to get to know and get close to people. But it's SO damn hard.
Anyone else suffer from social anxiety? How do you cope? I can't be the only one who feels this way....
So if you're around my age or older, you probably know the song "Magic Man" by Heart. (Heck, even if you're younger you may know it...This was definitely a huge hit for this super-talented duo.)
I love the song...It's musical genius. It speaks of a woman giving herself completely to a cunning and manipulative man who just happened to possess a certain charm and magnetism. It's rumored to be about Charles Manson, but I don't know how true that is.
If you're not familiar with this song, check it out below. Be sure to pay attention to the lyrics. They're pretty deep.....
Anyway, while I love this song, it gives me chills, and not in a good way. It hits home with me in a way that I can't explain....I hear this song and feel so many emotions. Sadness, pity, fear, anger, and surprisingly enough, compassion. Compassion towards the angry teen I was many years ago.
You see, when I was only 15 years old, I was in a serious relationship with a serial killer. Of course I had absolutely no idea that he was dangerous. In fact, he treated me quite well and was extremely protective of me. He made me feel loved, wanted, and safe. This was intoxicating to me....I didn't get much love at home, and was surrounded by addiction. Life was hard. This man made me feel like I was worthwhile, and I quickly became wrapped around his finger.
This is like a story in the movies. When I met Paul Pisacane, I was sitting at the bus stop at a mall in Springfield, Virginia. I spent most of my time hanging out there, a mall rat if you will, because anything was better than being at home. Paul was with his friend Rob, and they boarded the same bus as me. I immediately felt fear when I saw Paul....He had a shaved head, icy, penetrating eyes, and combat boots. They were speaking in Irish accents which were pretty convincing, but totally phony.
Anyway, Rob started hitting on me on the bus. He was kind of cute, so I agreed to get off at their stop and hang out with them. They were a little older than me, and had their own place. When we got there, Paul was very quiet and went to his room. Rob and I were just hanging out, and he started trying to touch me...I wasn't comfortable with it, and told him to stop. Paul obviously heard me, and came into the room....He gave Rob a look and said "Get off of her. She's mine now." Rob quickly stopped and went as far as leaving the house. You see, Paul was clearly the leader, and was pretty intimidating. So when he "claimed" me, I didn't argue. In fact, it made me feel special in a weird way. He had this kind of magnetism to him....I don't really know how to explain it, even to this day.
Paul and I began spending a lot of time together. After awhile, the tough guy exterior softened, and he opened up to me about his life. He was born to a drug addicted mother in Connecticut, and spent most of his life in and out of the system. He went through a lot of traumatic things, and was hardened because of it. So while most people saw the intimidating Paul, I was able to see the good underneath. I thought I could help him to be a better person, and for awhile, it seemed to work. He stopped doing drugs, got a job, and was happier. There was a gentle side to him that apparently was only shown to me. Again, that made me feel special.
It turns out, Paul had some legal issues I didn't know about...Before he met me, he committed fraud and was about to go to jail. I had been fighting a lot with my parents, so when he suggested we run away together, I didn't think twice. Now I still had absolutely no idea he was in trouble. He didn't tell me. He wanted to go to Connecticut, where he had family and friends. Before we left, he made fake birth certificates and social security cards. I was no longer Brandy....I was Amber. I should have ran the other direction right then and there, but I didn't. He had me hooked. I truly believed he was the only person in the world who loved or understood me. I couldn't bear the thought of not being with him. (Boy, was I stupid!)
So we hopped on a Greyhound bus and were on our way. We stopped in NYC, and then took another bus to Connecticut. When we arrived in the tiny little town of Beacon Falls, I started getting scared. For the first several nights, we slept in the woods. Finally, he found out where some family friends lived, and they let us stay with them. I don't know for sure, but I think Paul was stealing from them....I never saw him do it, but he would come up with money....I never questioned it. One thing I learned is that it was best not to question him. He told me I had to trust him or nothing would work.
They ended up throwing us out, but their neighbor took us in. They were actually very nice people, and I felt so bad for lying to them about my age and true identity. But to stay "safe", it was something I was told I had to do. Paul ended up supposedly getting a job...Looking back, I think that was a lie he told me. I am pretty sure he was out committing crimes while he was supposed to be working. I also think he started doing drugs again. He became volatile to a degree, and even more possessive. He would say things to me like "You're never getting rid of me." and "You belong to me." Still, being a stupid kid, I took this as a sign of love, and was not scared of him. I still desperately wanted to believe he was a nice guy and that he loved me.
I don't know how it happened, but somehow after about a month, my parents found out where I was. We were told that the cops were going to show up....I then had to spill the beans about who I was. Paul took off. He didn't want to be apprehended. He told me that he would be back, and that if they ended up taking me away, he would come after me.
Of course the police DID come, with my parents in tow. I was forced to go home. I was absolutely devastated. I didn't want to leave him. I didn't want to go back to the hell that was my home life.
Paul remained in Connecticut, and ended up in jail there. He ended up being extradited to Virginia, and he contacted me. By this time, I had moved on. But still, I was drawn to him and went to see him in jail. I'm actually surprised they allowed me visitation, since I was under 18. There was a pane of glass between us, and I had to talk to him via phone. I told myself going in that I would break things off with him once and for all. And that's exactly what I ultimately ended up doing.
Seeing him again after the "spell" had been broken was odd. He no longer had such pull on me. I still cared about him, but I knew I couldn't be with him. I knew he was dangerous. But I still believed he loved me, and in a way, I felt like I was somehow responsible for his incarceration....I felt like I had failed him because I was sent back to Virginia and couldn't help him....
It makes absolutely no sense to me now, but back then I blamed myself for the bad choices that he made.
I ended up confronting him about all of the lies and demanded the truth. Well, he gave it to me, and I was absolutely horrified. It turns out, he was still committing a lot of crimes, both violent and non-violent, and he kept it hidden from me to "protect" me. He tried to justify the things he did, but thankfully, I didn't buy it.
Awhile later, I married my first husband, who was very abusive. I worked at the mall, and ended up seeing Paul one day after he had gotten out of jail. I tried to be friendly. I felt sorry for him, in a way. I tried to be his friend. But his erratic behavior got to be too much. He was trying to get me to leave and be with him, and I just couldn't do it. I broke off all contact. He still said the chilling words "You're never getting rid of me." But rather than being comforting, it was now frightening.
He actually tried to find me...He is quite manipulative. He had a friend who I had never met before call my mother asking for my information. He told her that I had slept with him, and that he was HIV positive and needed to contact me so I could get tested. (Total bullshit, by the way...I didn't know this guy.) Thankfully, my mother didn't give my info out. She DID call me pretty upset. Eventually, we found out it was Paul all along trying to track me down.
Time went on, and I became a mother. When my oldest son was a newborn, I got a call from my mother telling me to go buy a newspaper. I had just had a c-section and didn't have a car, so of course, I didn't want to. She urged me to and said there was something I needed to see on page A5 of The Washington Post. So I bundled Kyle up, grabbed the stroller, and headed to 7-11.
When I got home, I opened the paper....And then I saw it. I started crying and shaking, and was inconsolable. Paul Robert Pisacane had been convicted of killing 2 men with his bare hands, with a 15 year old boy as his accomplice. He broke into their homes, beat and strangled them to death. I couldn't believe it. But there it was in black and white, and he plead guilty to the charges. He was going to be charged with more murders in Connecticut, but came to some sort of a plea deal to avoid extradition and the death penalty. How many he killed, no one is sure of....But they do think he was killing while I was there with him. Terrifying, isn't it?
Once the shock wore off, I felt a sense of gratitude. I had gotten away alive. Would he ever have hurt me? I don't know....I want to believe he wouldn't have, but I am not naiive. Paul was obviously not the person he convinced me he was. Everything I thought I knew was a lie. He roped me in, took advantage of my vulnerabilities, and basically hypnotized me in a way. He really did put me under his spell....
So that's why the song Magic Man strikes a nerve with me. I can totally relate to the lyrics in a way I wish I couldn't.....Check them out:
Cold late night so long ago
When I was not so strong you know
A pretty man came to me
Never seen eyes so blue
I could not run away
It seemed we'd seen each other in a dream
It seemed like he knew me
He looked right through me
"Come on home, girl" he said with a smile
"You don't have to love me yet
Let's get high awhile
But try to understand
Try to understand
Try try try to understand
I'm a magic man."
Winter nights we sang in tune
Played inside the months of moon
Never think of never
Let this spell last forever
Summer over passed to fall
Tried to realized it all
Mama says she's a worried
Growing up in a hurry
"Come on home, girl" mama cried on the phone
"Too soon to lose my baby yet my girl should be at home!"
"But try to understand, try to understand
Try try try to understand
He's a magic man, mama
He's a magic man"
"Come on home, girl" he said with a smile
"I cast my spell of love on you a woman from a child!
But try to understand, try to understand
I'm a magic man!"
Paul Robert Pisacane is currently serving 2 consecutive life sentences at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap, VA. He is right where he belongs. I am so incredibly grateful to be alive and that he never hurt me. The man could have killed me, and that knowledge is absolutely sobering. I had someone looking out for me, that's for sure.
So I know everyone loves some awesome reviews and giveaways, but I would like to start sharing more of who I am. I have decided to add a "Dear Diary" page to the blog, and here I will get personal. Very, very personal. Whether it's rants, introspective thoughts, or just talking about my day, here is where you'll find the nitty-gritty.
Maybe no one will even read these entries....And that's okay. It's more for ME, actually. I find writing to be therapeutic, and a great way to clear the mind and the spirit. I hope you'll take the time to get to know me here, and even start some conversations.
First "real" post coming soon!
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