Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sewage Pipe or Treasured Gift?

For several years before I began dating my (suspected OCPD) ex, my tabletop Goddess fountain was one of my favorite pieces of ?art? ?soul-nurturing?

The symbol of a female figure as a constantly renewing spring of life-giving water, inspiration, abundance, and nurturing, is an ancient one. My Goddess fountain became part of a growing impromptu altar, surrounded by candles, flowers, photographs, and small but significant knickknacks.

At one point in my life, distraught over the breakup of a love relationship, I carelessly reached for some books on a nearby shelf. Several fell on the fountain, breaking her into bits. I glued her back together - seamlessly in some spots, rather crookedly and badly in others. This distressed me, and yet, was quite appropriate, because I felt that my life, too, had been broken and put back together, many times.

You can see the breaks and holes on the right side.

In the basin of the Goddess's lap, and in the water below her, I placed small stones, rocks, and shells. Some had been gifted to me by friends and family, or gathered with a significance - one from the back yard of my childhood home, for example, or as knickknacks from a place I visited. Others were simply pretty; polished sea glass placed for visual effect.

When my ex and I decided to move in together, I carefully drained the water, and packed up my Goddess fountain, along with the rocks and shells, a favorite photo of my mother I generally placed near her, and carefully labeled the box. After all, it shouldn't take long before we worked out where everything would go, and she would be flowing again for both of us.

Partway to being reassembled.

You will not be surprised to find that there was never a "right time" to unpack her, never a good place for her to be set up. As my Goddess fountain stayed boxed, dry, and immobile, I too became increasingly dried up, spiritually, creatively, emotionally, even sexually.

I'm not saying that one caused the other in some creepy superstitious way, or that my Goddess fountain is possessed of supernatural powers, like the Chuckie doll from the horror movies. Simply that the environment I lived in, with the increasingly anxious and controlling OCPD behaviors of my ex, and my then unaware acquiescence to them, was unwelcoming to a free and joyous spirit. Closed off to spontaneity, creativity, messiness, and free-flowing expression.

One of the first things I did when I decided to move out, away from my ex, was to choose a location to set up my Goddess fountain once again. Before I even had a bed or a couch!  Since at that time we were still "dating," my ex often weighed in with opinions about how I should set up and furnish my new place. Some of it I listened to; other bits I ignored.

One family in my new apartment complex had a four year old child, who was curious, as kids are, about his new neighbor. I gave him the nickel tour of my new apartment, and he loved the small Goddess fountain I'd set up in my office.

A few weeks later, he had a present for me, for the fountain, and gave it to me in the presence of my ex. A small shard of broken pottery.

After the child departed, my ex looked at it dubiously. "It looks like a piece of old sewage pipe to me. Yuck. You should throw it away."

I decided instead to clean it thoroughly, and put it to use. In my most recent cleaning and re-establishing my Goddess fountain, I incorporated several new stones picked up in my travels. And I've been looking at that chunk of terra cotta and contemplating it again.

Health is something I've really decided to focus on this year.
The green shale is from Mt. Shasta.

To me, this piece - of what well may be a chunk of old sewage pipe - is also a symbol of my new life. A gift offered freely, with love, friendship, and childish joy. That's what I want in my life.

To my ex, it was just some nasty piece of trash, and though I tried to explain to him why it was valuable to me... he didn't get it, couldn't get it.

That sharp difference in philosophy and attitude towards life is why, three years "out" of sharing a home, I haven't regretted a minute of it. I feel deeply sorry for him, because all his rules and obsessions don't make him feel happy, safe, or loved, and never will.

But I am joyful, creative, and free-flowing, once again.

Clean and reassembled.

The natural beeswax candle I also picked up in recent travels.
Do you have symbols that are significant to you, ridiculed by a partner?
(Mind you, I'm not talking about a hoard!)
What do you do to keep your life free-flowing and refreshed?
Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bud Clayman vs. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is, to conventional wisdom, HAWT. Yet another BC, once upon a time, was also HAWT.

Here's Bradley Cooper depicting Pat, from Silver Linings Playbook, with Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and an all-star cast:

And here's Bud Clayman in OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger's Movie

What's the difference, besides Bradley Cooper being an actor who can quickly move on to The Hangover, Part Eleventy-Seven, or the next Hollywood flick?

Not so very much. As I discovered when my friend Sidney Patrick and I caught a showing of OC 87 on my birthday last June, BC (Bud Clayman) was sexy, charming, and smart... before mental illness tackled him.

There is no vaccine against mental illness.

Catherine Zeta-Jones
Cover of Catherine Zeta-Jones
It happens to smokin' hot men and sexy girls. (Charlie Sheen and Catherine Zeta-Jones, anyone?)

It is not nearly as glamorous in real life as in the Hollywood version.

Drugs have real side effects, like weight gain and sleepiness, which is why many mentally ill people resist or refuse to take them. They also have real co$t$, which is why some people who would take them, if they could only afford then, aren't on their meds, or are taking half the recommended dosage.

I was blown away by the lineup of pill bottles prescribed to Bud Clayman, to keep him approaching normalcy.

via OC87
And yet, I have to applaud Bud's courage in fighting his way back to sanity. It takes a hella lot more courage to swallow the pills, than to not swallow them.

Wheelchair Warriors Are Our Heroes. The Mentally Disabled? Not so  much.

Except in Hollywood. Hollywood loves the Drama of Mental Illness. But it generally glosses over the ugly dangly bits. Casts glamorous actors and actresses in the parts of the mentally ill, and almost never allows them to get fat, too dirty, or otherwise unphotogenic.

Cover of "Girl, Interrupted"
Cover of Girl, Interrupted
Maybe you've seen some of these:

  • Psycho
  • Sybil
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Girl, Interrupted
  • Rainman
  • The Fisher King
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Black Swan
  • Matchstick Men
  • The Aviator
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Lars and the Real Girl

There are hundreds more.

IRL (In Real Life), the people struggling with mental illness or developmental disabilities, like autism, can't call "cut" at the end of the scene and go back to "being normal."

I very much enjoyed Silver Linings Playbooks, which I caught on my friend Sid's birthday weekend. Sadly, unlike OC87 which she and I watched together on my birthday weekend, I had to see Silver Linings without her, because only a few months after OC87, the long term effects of living with a mentally disordered partner, and alcoholism, had taken Sid's life.

I encourage you to buy, rent, or stream, the much lesser known documentary OC87.

And support mental health issues. Via contributions to NAMI, and encouragement to your government representatives to provide funding and research grants for mental health issues.

Today, you may be one of the few lucky ones, with no family members or loved ones affected. Tomorrow?

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Does He DO That? Introduction (Part 5)

We are reading, and, I hope, entering into a healthy discussion of the book Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

Please, do buy your own copy - both because I won't be excerpting all of it, and because this author deserves our $upport.

From the Introduction - How To Use This Book

<snip> You may feel ashamed of having a partner who sometimes behaves in unkind or bullying ways, and you may fear that people will be critical of you for not leaving him right away. Or you might have the opposite concern: that people around you are so fond of your partner that you question whether they will believe you when you describe how mean or abusive he can be. But, regardless of these anxieties, it is essential not to stay isolated with your distress or confusion about what is happening in your relationship. Find someone whom you can trust - it might even be a person you have never considered opening up to before - and unburden yourself. This is probably the single most critical step you can take toward building a life that is free from control and abuse.

If your partner’s controlling or devaluing behaviors is chronic, you no doubt find yourself thinking about him a great deal of the time, wondering how to please him, how to keep them from straying, or how to get him to change. As a result, you may find that you don’t get much time to think about yourself  - except about what is wrong with you in his eyes. <snip> I’m hoping that by answering as many questions as possible and clearing away the confusion that abusive behavior creates, I can make it possible for you to escape the trap of preoccupation with your partner, so that you can put yourself - and your children if you are a mother  - back in the center of your life where you belong. An angry and controlling man can be like a vacuum cleaner that successful woman’s mind and life, but there are ways to get your life back. The first step is to learn to identify what your partner is doing and why he does it, which is what the pages ahead will illuminate. But when you have finished diving deeply into the abuser’s mind, which this book will enable you to do, it is important to rise back to the surface and from then on try to stay out of the water is much as you can. I don’t mean that you should necessarily leave your partner - that is a complex and highly personal decision that only you can make. But whether you stay or go, the critical decision you can make is to stop letting your partner distort the lens of your life, always forcing his way into the center of the picture. You deserve to have your life be about you; you are worth it.

Shame Helps Keep Us Silent
If we have a partner who is abusive, it's hard to admit, even to ourselves. After all, we chose him (or her). Were we stupid - or blind? Besides, we have continued to stay with a person who treats us this way - what is wrong with us?

We may buy into his argument that we make him angry. Unfair as it seems, sometimes, it is still less unpalatable than admitting s/he is an angry person who would find reasons excuses to be abusive no matter what we did or didn't do.

Living with an abusive person becomes a Through the Looking Glass world where everything is backwards; they behave badly, we feel ashamed.

And yet, when we do begin speaking out, we find help, support, validation. The Emperor has no clothes, after all.

Disclaimer: The information and opinions posted here, and any comment responses, are not to be considered professional advice and are not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical or mental health professional. If you are involved in a relationship that includes physical, financial, and/or emotional violence, please contact a professional for help and assistance.

In the US:

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)  TTY- 1-800-787-3224 
RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI

International Resources linked here.

Your thoughts?