The Blame Game

At certain points, I find that I take a more passive role in developing my pieces by simply taking a step back to practice some observation. It’s true that I can relate to many mental health topics out there. I can also identify with a number of experiences that are disclosed by other writers. I frequently encounter different faces of “the beast” that is mood disorder. My world has been flipped, flopped, and turned on its ear by the ceaseless roller coaster. My closet is also riddled with skeletons, and I dread the mere thought of even approaching that Pandora’s box gathering dust in the corner of my mind. Finally, in all truth, my childhood was quite troubled.

I too have been enticed to play the Blame Game. In fact, there was an enormous chunk of my life where that was all I knew. As a child, it was easy not to feel as if I had any control over my life. That being the case, it was logical to collect my woes and place blame on those who surrounded me. My parents were very distracted by their own issues and those of my brother. I grew accustomed to the role of being “good”, which often led to me sliding off the map entirely. I was a ghost in my own home.

Naturally, this resulted in a particularly turbulent adolescence. I asserted the blame onto my family for my emerging disorder, and the entire traumatic experience that occurred as a result of the way it was handled.

Others are also entangled in the Blame Game even more so that I was, because it can’t be a game without a certain number of players. Being that I was an idyllic child, the seemingly overnight transformation into that perpetual nightmare was determined to be my choice. All of the resulting behaviors were seen as awful deeds I intended to commit. The familial problems brewing in the past became volatile, all at my hand. According to them, I was hell-bent on destroying the entire family for some kind of personal gain.

I could blame my awful choices in my early adulthood on my parents. In the past, I did. I was convinced that I was entirely a product of my upbringing, and that I would always remain a damaged person.

We can choose not to play any mind game out there. Quitting the Blame Game does not mean forfeiture in any way. Actually, it means winning altogether. We win command of ourselves.

Addressing the skeptics, I’ll agree that it’s not as simple as walking away from the table. The table is infinite in its existence. There will always be people who will make the attempt to entice us back into the game. But, that’s all it is. Remember the old saying from childhood? It’s just a game.

Here are some steps to cashing out once and for all:

Grieve:

Mourn all that was and all that could have been. It’s not easy to let go of those painful emotions and memories. It might even be more difficult to release the ideals and expectations. But, we can understand that the past is in the past. We can’t change that. What we truly desire is not always feasible. The people who caused the hurt in the first place might just be incapable of providing the kind of closure and / or emotional nourishment we crave.

I mourned the warm, nurturing childhood that wasn’t mine. I allowed myself to feel the sorrow of a lonely child and a misunderstood teen. I truly suffered the continual disapproval in my young adulthood. And I grieved the absence of the parent / child relationship in my adulthood. I released all that was, all that could have been, and all there never was or will be.

And the emptiness inside of me closed in. The black hole that was seemingly infinite in my heart vanished. It felt like I could fully experience the very moment I existed in, through and through. I finally could just be.

Forgive:

Release the resentment, and the blame will lift with it. Try to see the other side of it, even if it’s speculation. It is not rationalizing their behavior, but granting pardon for their transgressions. It’s not about determining whether they are worthy, but making the conscious decision to permit ourselves the freedom of that burden. We are entitled to the right to live our lives.

I forgave each member of my family individually. Not because I determined that they shared no fault, but because I released myself from it. It was too cumbersome to allow the past to be my present. And it was unrealistic to hold onto the hope that the future would become something any different. I am worthy and my life is too precious to ensnare it in the unending Blame Game.

My shackles released, and I was freed. For the first time, I truly felt like I could do anything.

Rebuild:

Those persons with troubled youths are likely to have faulty foundations. Maybe there is something that wasn’t there or something that has rotted away. In any case, we are already painfully aware of the malfunctioning portions of our own structures. It’s time to do some inspection into our infrastructures to rebuild and repair from the bottom up.

Important note: It is not wise or even advised to “scrap it” and start new. I’ve watched a few close friends “reinvent” themselves dozens of times to end up in exactly the same condition, and probably worse for all the wear. In my formative years, I’ve even attempted it myself. In reality, all it does is condemn and identity and destabilize a personality. As a result, a whole new set of problems is piled upon the original, grander issues.

I cannot be summed up by my past and present roles, or by the quantity or quality of experience. I am simply me. And I strive to be the best me, each and every day.

Anyway, for me, it was a tangle of perused and outdated materials. My parents didn’t hesitate to impose their own values and beliefs on me, while denying my own perspectives and opinions. It became commonplace for me to assume I was “wrong”. Then, it was habitual to allow others to do the same.

It took a lot of self-examination to determine what was actually mine. And when I say “self-examination”, I don’t mean introspection. There was no judgment involved. Instead, there was a deep and lengthy determination between the parts that resonated with me and those that caused me harm. My goal was to be me, and only me, through and through. That’s not to say I discarded anything that didn’t originate with me. I integrated them as working parts of a fully-functional, but always perfectly imperfect system.

Refuse:

Refuse to return to the Blame Game. Decline any invitation, and be wary of any temptation. It’s easier than anticipated to return to the same habits. No one can use force in mind games, and that’s all the Blame Game is.

I have a temper, and I find it difficult to back down from a fight. I have to be vigilant with each interaction, especially with new people. But, that doesn’t mean I let it slip from my mind when engaging with those close to me. I don’t shut the people out who are prone to it. I simply refuse. If they want to win, then so be it.

What would they really win if there was no one to play with? Nothing. Not even the satisfaction.

Instead, I get to walk away with that satisfaction and everything functional and intact. And that is truly progress in this grandiose game we call “life”. Because in the end of that one, no one wins. We are all the same.

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The Infamous Accident : 30 Days of Truth

Day 21 : (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

It was the first day of June, and at hot, sunny one at that.  Heat makes me miserable.  Well, truthfully, it doesn’t take much to make me miserable.

Xan was late coming home from work as usual.  I was ravenous with hunger when he called on his way home from work.  My attitude was sour, because we were nearing the 7 o’clock hour.  It had been far too long since my last meal, and I was bitter that he had a blatant disregard for his family’s needs.  We bantered back and forth as to what we wanted to do for dinner.

Suddenly, the phone cut out.  This was a usual annoying occurrence during his daily commute home.  And I impatiently waited for him to call back, ranting to my mother about what an incredibly inconsiderate jerk he had been.  The wait continued, and I found that I was fed up with the situation.  I attempted to call him back, but the phone went straight to voicemail.

I was furious.  Just because I gave him a little attitude after a long day gives him the right to ignore me?  My anger continued to grow as I attempted him again and again without any luck.  Suddenly, a strange number came up on my phone.  I answered, expecting it to be a bill collector of some sort.

It was Xan.  He said, “Lulu, don’t panic.  I’ve been in a car accident.”

When someone tells me not to panic, naturally I go straight to it.  I am an alarmist, and I always expect the worst.  I frantically screamed, “Oh my god, are you okay?!”

“I don’t know,” he responded, sounding dazed and a little confused.  He continued after a brief pause, “I think you need to call an ambulance.  Could you call an ambulance?”  There was no urgency in his voice.  Only a flat tone.

I didn’t know what to do.  How could I call an ambulance for him when I didn’t even know where he was, or what was wrong, or really what happened in the first place?  Suddenly, the adrenaline started coursing through my veins.  My head cleared and I assured him, “Hold on, I’m coming.  Where are you?”  He gave me his location, and I prodded his broken mind for more information as to what happened for more details.

“I’ve got to go.  The paramedics are here,” he informed me.

Urgently, I told him, “I’m coming.  Tell the paramedics to wait, because I’m on the way.  Don’t let them take you without me.”

My father offered to take me.  My brain was buzzing like live wires during a ride that seemingly took forever.  Is he okay?  Is he going to die?  What happened to him?  What’s going to happen now?  Please God, please let him be okay.  I hate myself for all of the needless bickering.  Those could have been my last words to him.

I arrived on the scene and jumped out of the car.  I crossed two lanes of traffic and stared intensely at the accident scene.  AT first, all I could see was a circle of police cars, some policeman directing traffic, some paramedics, and the ambulance.  I started to panic again when I couldn’t see Xan.  As I continued approaching, I saw the other car.  The entire front end was completely smashed in.  My heart seized and my throat started to close.  I couldn’t know what to expect.  But, naturally, I feared the worst.  I feared Xan on a stretcher, profusely bleeding and broken.

The Jetta came into view as I frantically continued into the scene, and it was a sight that rocked me to my very core.  I gasped with what little air I could manage.  The whole driver’s side was entirely smashed in, looking as if it could have done lethal damage to the person in that car.  That person being Xan, my lover, my husband, my best friend.

I was still desperately searching for him.  Everyone took notice of me, and watched intently.  I called out his full name, “(Withheld)!!!”  And I ran, rounding the police cars to find him sitting on the traffic island.  I plunged to the ground, scraping both of my knees under my thin skirt, and I carefully embraced him.  I sat down beside him to inspect him.  I asked again, “Are you okay?!”

Once again, he replied in a very unsteady voice, “I don’t know.”

He bared a swollen knee and described his head and neck injury.  He didn’t even know it, but he had a piece of beaded glass embedded in his thick eyebrow.  That paramedic approached us and said to me, “He hasn’t decided if he’s going to the hospital.”

Xan started mumbling some things about transportation, but I sharply cut him off.  “Yes, he’s going.  He is going, and he’s going now in the ambulance.”

Once I determined it was okay to leave him for a moment, I went to assess the damage to our beloved vehicle.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  My first car, the car that I worked so hard for, that I lived in abject poverty over, the car I never had a chance to drive, was completely demolished.  It had a car sized dent spanning the entire driver’s side.

I went inside, determined to find Xan’s glasses, which no one bothered to look for.  I collected the rest of our belongings, and that’s when I saw them.  They were jammed between the driver’s side door and the seat that now touched each other.  I dove across a glass covered seat in that thin skirt to retrieve them.

I accompanied him in the ambulance.  They preferred that I sit in the front as they loaded him on the stretcher and put him in the back.  I heard the conversation clear as a bell.  ”You are a very lucky guy,” said one of the paramedics.  The other said, “Yeah, that crash could have killed you.”

That’s when the seriousness of it hit me.  He was lucky.  Very lucky that day to be alive.  The car was impacted at least 35mph in the direct center of the driver’s side.  He was thrown to the side a bit, and came back with a nasty smack to his head, sending his glasses flying.  The driver’s side could have crushed him in.  He could have been killed.  He could have died that very day.  I would never have been able to take back all of the nastiness that happened.  I could have never made up for it.  I could have never seen him, held him, kissed him, or talked to him ever again.

I stood with him, holding his ice cold hand the entire time.  I ordered nurses and doctors around.  I made sure he was hydrated and escorted him to the bathroom.  He was irritated, but I didn’t care.  I was not about to leave his side.  I was going to care for him in whatever ways that I could.  I would stay with him, and comfort him, though he claimed he was fine.  I would joke with him and help him feel better.

That night, I stayed up as much as I could.  I woke him up every couple of hours with increasingly difficult questions.  It started with mother’s maiden name and our son’s middle name.  Eventually, we ended up with first address, grandmother’s maiden name, and his biological father’s date of birth.  I was determined to ensure he was alright.  I had people on call, waiting in the instance that he had to return to the hospital.

Luckily, he managed to escape a potentially deadly crash with a concussion, a bruised knee, a cut eyebrow, and a pair of slightly bent glasses.  Unfortunately, he did end up having post concussive syndrome.  For a long time after the crash, he wasn’t quite right.  In time, he got better.  But at the very least, he was alive and for the most part, unharmed.

Today, I still cringe and panic anytime the phone cuts out or he turns up late from work.  But, I’ve learned my lesson.  Grudges aren’t worth it.  Always reconcile as soon as possible.  Because, maybe one day, that person won’t be there in another moment to reconcile with.

Love the Way You Lie : 30 Days of Truth

Day 3 : Something you have to forgive yourself for.

Mutually Abusive Relationships
There is practically no literature on the subject of mutually abusive relationships, as this is only a recently recognized phenomenon.  While professionals, such as Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. acknowledge that it occurs, few can agree on whether it was mutual in nature.

The dynamics of abusive relationships are significantly more complex than professionals seem to think.  In decades prior, society bred women to be docile, obedient, and complacent.  Most research reflects that in abusive relationships.  The man “attacks”, and the woman is “victimized”.

Unquestionably, that is precisely the manner abuse presented itself in my relationship prior to this one.  It began innocuously with casual criticisms and negative remarks.  A person is inclined to believe that a loved one only means the best, even if the words sting.  There was hardly a second thought toward the words.  Eventually, they grew into berating remarks, lambasting lectures, and generalized nitpicking over every action, behavior, expression, inaction, word, thought, emotion . . .

By then, I was already convinced that these heinous contortions were the embodiment of what I truly was.  I was already manipulated into believing I had been delusional about my own nature to begin with.  It was like being in a house of mirrors.  Every reflection revealed a new flaw.

But, a miniscule portion of my consciousness spotted the cracks all along.  It seemed I was not entirely convinced that this was the absolute truth.  Contradictions existed at everywhere in this fun house.  How was it possible that I was so stupid when my grade point average was far above his?  If I was such a flawed, inadequate, and vile person, why did I have so many faithful, loving friends?

At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root.  I violated my own rules of drinking.  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!  I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend.  Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover.  If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.

Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.

Naturally, I engaged the fire breathing dragon with my own fire.  Raw throat from screaming for hours, until one of us locked the other out, or I started packing a bag.  I was attempting to turn his own game right around on him.  The problem is that he was the gamemaster, and I was just a pawn.  I was always the pawn.  He could play me against me, and change the rules at will.

It was common knowledge. I would never leave.  I was already too terrified of the potential consequences.  Besides, all of my money was tied up in that apartment.  We had acquired a sizable amount of mutual property.  I was unwilling to sacrifice all of my gains, my gains, because I paid for them, to someone else.

Next, we moved into the isolation stage.  Suddenly, all of my girl friends were whores and my male friends wanted to get into my pants.  Your friends are a reflection of who you are.  No wonder you’re a completely stupid whore.  A drop of truth existed.  One of my closest friends was a teen mom, a stripper, and into drugs.  I didn’t see a whole lot wrong there.  She had a good heart, despite her mistakes.  But. . . maybe I was wrong.

We graduated college, lost our apartment, and moved onto some family property.  This was the turning point.  Here, we were completely alone.

I was a victim as much as I was an abuser.

It is one of the most difficult realities I have to face.

Prior to that point, I had never laid my hands on anyone with malicious intent.  And truthfully, I can’t pinpoint where it began.  Being in a perpetual state of inebriation has likely damaged that portion of my memory to beyond retrievable.  I can only recall certain events.  But, my mind will never be able to purge itself of the horror, guilt, rage, terror, hurt, and animosity I felt.

He started abusing me first.  Again, it started innocently enough with playful roughhousing that usually got out of hand.  Eventually, it turned into vulgar, degrading, often coerced, dangerously rough sex.  Then, it finally graduated to domestic life.  The transitions were so smooth that it was too hard to distinguish in the house of mirrors.  Sometimes you need to be put in your place.  You don’t know what’s good for you.

I became the monster that I loathed.  I was an animal, trapped in a cage, and emotionally, verbally, and now physically beaten for mistakes.  Sometimes, it was events that were beyond my control.  And, I gave in to my natural instincts.  I started fighting back.

I wanted him to feel the pain he inflicted upon me.

I recall a specific incident, the worst of them all.  We were drinking and playing World of Warcraft.  He was highly competitive, and I was entirely defensive.  As usual, he had remarks on my lack of skill and inadequacy in the team.  I started back in on him.  There was a back and forth that eventually provoked me to get up in his face.  He saw me coming and hit me in the face with a CAT5 cord.  The cord slashed my face and the connector rendered my right eye useless.

I pounced, but he knocked me flat on my back, with his foot on my chest.  He commanded, “You stay down there!”  I wrested myself free and attempted to get on my feet, only to be knocked flat and pinned again.  “Stay on the f***ing floor!“  Once more.  “I thought I f***ing told you to lay on the f***ing floor!”

I couldn’t free myself this time, and I angrily searched the floor for something, anything.  I grabbed a discarded vodka bottle and hurled with all of my strength at his head.  He jerked to dodge the impact, and I got to my feet.  I stared at him defiantly with my mouth twisted into a snarl.

“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?!  You could have f***ing killed me, you stupid b****!”

“I’m sorry I didn’t!”

He came at me, but I lunged for him, tackling him to the floor. I began mercilessly wailing on him as he antagonized me, “Is that all you got?! A fly could do more damage!” I slapped him across the face so hard that my red handprint swelled on his cheek.

He threw me off of him, but I was still in pursuit. My cheek burned, my eye puffed shut, and my rage incinerated every last shred of humanity that remained. I grabbed him by his shirt before he made it to the front door. He shoved me, but I remained latched to him.

“I’m leaving you, you crazy b****!”

“Take this with you!”, I spit at him and sunk my teeth into the flesh over his heart. He picked me up by my throat, viciously thrust me to the floor, and slammed the door. I laid there, coughing and gasping to regain my breath.

That wasn’t the end. The end didn’t come for nearly another year. And in that year, incidents such as these were commonplace. I could not legitimately claim victimization. I shared equal fault for the escalation of the abuse that occurred. Despite any trauma I have suffered, I am responsible for another person’s trauma.

That alone hinders healing.  Most of the world will never see themselves in that light.  I have more than glanced at the monster in the mirror.  I became it.  I abhor all parties involved in each and every single last act.  Including myself.  How could I possible forgive myself for such atrocities that I committed when I have personally felt the pain they inflict?