Carl-Nan the Barbarian

When I started this whole blog thang I did it with the intent of going back over my old relationships, figuring out what went wrong, trying to find patterns in my choices/picks/what-have-you. While I can usually spin any story in a humorous way, I have to admit that there are some stories that just cannot be shed in a light-hearted manner. There were some pretty horrible things that have happened during my dating life and I would be doing myself a great disservice if I didn’t write about the good, the funny, and the ugly. After all, it is the hard stuff that is going to be most important in this journey of self-evaluation… Some of it was just generally bad people, but I also have to take responsibility for the fact that I allowed them in.

When I was 17, I dated Carl. I think that my bad pattern started with him, truth be told. Carl has a voice like a raspy Mickey Mouse. In retrospect I’m not sure how I got past that. It was really quite ridiculous. He also used to wear his jeans folded at the ankle… I was Carl’s first love and when I started dating him it was with the intent of having someone to fill the space during a T void. (As were most of my high school relationships that were not T.) It started out innocently enough and everything was actually great, to the point where we started to fall in love. Correction: He fell in love; I merely really liked him. He never gave me a chance to fall in love with him.

After a couple of months he started to get controlling, jealous and insecure. I wore a mini skirt to school one day and he flipped. He didn’t speak to me the entire day yet minutes after leaving the school grounds he started the fight. He said if I was to be his girlfriend I wasn’t allowed to wear that type of skirt to school. It was unaccetable for me to dress in a way that would make other guys look at me, to make them want me. “Do you want to break up with me, is that it?? Do you WANT other guys to think you’re hot?”  This type of behavior continued and gradually escalated over time. My hair was too cute. My jeans too tight. My makeup was wrong.

One day I was talking to a male friend in the hall and Carl came around the corner. His eyes spoke volumes and his steely silence sent a chill down my spine. When school ended and I met him at his car he waited until we were in the car to explode. He screamed as I tried to defend the innocence of the encounter. He wasn’t going to be assuaged.  

In the kitchen of his home he hit me for the first time. I felt the slap across my cheek and was stunned. It didn’t really hurt and happened so fast I immediately suspected it didn’t happen at all. I still remember the hatred in his eyes as I looked up in surprise. The look quickly faded as the realization of what he had done occurred to him and was replaced with apologies and tears. I’m not sure I even cried and was so shocked I left minutes later in silence.

I was too embarassed to say anything to anyone about what happened.

In classic abuser form he came back apologetic, promising it would never happen again, that he had no idea what had come over him. He spoke of how he had watched his father beat his mother throughout his entire life. Stupidly, I listened, felt sorry for his situation, believed he could work on it. I thought I could help him change and continued to see him.

The pattern of abusive, controlling and manipulative behavior continued for several months. We lived in a small town and it was nearly impossible to hide from him. If I left the house he knew where I was within minutes. He called the house relentlessly. I couldn’t go to school without him knowing how to find me in the halls. I wore only the clothes I knew he would approve of, wore my hair the way he liked it, started to cut people from my life in an effort to keep from triggering him. I felt very alone and scared, yet I didn’t know how to get out.

He threatened my life, my safety, and I was too afraid, too mortified to call for help. He used to remind me that there was nowhere he couldn’t find me and that he knew how to get to my friends and family in a moment. I think there was also a part of my stubbornness that didn’t want to admit to other people that they were right about him; I thought I could help him change. I got pretty good at hiding the bruises and even though those close to me suspected what was going on they didn’t push. I silently cried for help and I know those around me did as well, not knowing how to bridge the gap.

Spring Break 1990, T asked me to go with him to Daytona. He suspected that there was real trouble and was trying to talk me into getting away for awhile. I refused, then changed my mind at the last minute, only for it to be too late – they had already left town. Carl suspected that T had asked me to go and the day after I should have left he started with the sullenness, then started to pick a fight.  As we were driving in the car I felt a blow and ringing in my ears as my right temple bounced off the car window. It was a full 10 seconds before I even realized what happened, then a fraction of a second later  another blow and intense pain in my jaw.  The light around me was blurred and my hearing was muffled. I tasted the blood in my mouth and felt the panic rise in my throat as I realized I couldn’t open my mouth to plead for him to stop. He brought the car to a halt at a stop sign and I sprung in an attempt to run home. He jerked the car at me and ran off the side of the country road. I got back into the car out of fear that he would run me over before I could get to safety, figuring it was the safer bet – we were in the middle of nowhere.

After that day I refused to see him any longer, ignored the calls, stayed in the house. I practically ran from class to class, got a ride home from someone he didn’t know. I successfully avoided him for several days even though he was relentless in trying to get me to talk to him.

A week later T came home. I lay in my room and talked to him on the phone, the window above my bed cracked open. (It was the type of window that has a crank that turns the window out rather than up.) As T and I talked I heard a crash. Glass came raining down on me, on my bed. I screamed and my Dad came bursting in the room, then ran to the front of the house. There Carl stood, hand bleeding, breathing heavily. When he saw my Dad he took off and ran to the car and tore out of the driveway. My Dad was on his heels in his own car but came back after a few minutes givng up the chase for fear that Carl would drive himself into the ditch trying to escape.

Now, here’s what shows that this guy is a complete fucking idiot (aside from the obvious): He came back. We were standing in the kitchen as I poured out the events of the last few months. My parents were stunned, and in a moment, as I was encircled in my Dad’s arms we saw his headlights in the driveway. My Dad met him at the garage door, took him by the throat and practically lifted him off the ground as he pinned him to the door. “What is your malfunction, SON?” I’ll never forget the sight… He bawled like a school boy and profusely apologized but my Dad warned him: From that day on he was not to set foot on our property and was not so much as to even glance at his daughter again. The next day we sealed the deal as one of my brother’s friends, Mitch (who was around 6′ 5″ & 250 lbs), drove to his house and pinned him up against his car saying if he even breathed in my direction he’d rip his throat out through his asshole.

Thank Goddesses Without Husbands it worked. He finally left me alone, although the damage was certainly done. I was so beat down from the months of constant stress that it took me a very long time to recover. My self esteem was completely shot, my self-worth voided. I blamed myself. How could I allow it to go on so long? How could I allow another person to treat me like that? Why didn’t I go for help? Yet, I was thankful I finally had found my voice, even if it was after being forced to do so with that night’s events.

Those questions are obvious to anyone who thinks about an abused woman (or man), but what people don’t realize is what it is like to be in that situation, what it’s like to be so completely manipulated every minute of every day it gets to a point of no return you cannot recover from. I was lucky in that I had people to help me get away from him. There are many who aren’t so lucky.

Four years later I met my now ex-husband. I now realize the pattern of abuse although it took me a long time to do so. It’s so subtle you don’t realize it’s happening. I see now that abusers are masters of manipulation. They have you so topsy-turvy you don’t even know you’re in the hole until you’re too far in to climb out. The abuse doesn’t start right away; it progressively ramps up. While you may be able to put out a front to those around you, inside you’re in a frightened, helpless pit. I know it sounds dramatic. It IS dramatic. And there’s definitely something to be said for fearing for your life to keep you in a bad situation. Some might say, “Duh. Walk away.” Believe me, it’s not that easy. If it were there would be no such thing as an abusive relationship.

Lesson #1: If you’re an abused person stay as strong as you can and do not be afraid to ask for help. You do not have to go through this alone. Most importantly, the pattern will not stop. Abusers rarely learn how to change, unfortunately.

Lesson #2: If you know someone who is being abused, let them know, regularly, that you are there for them whenever they need it. Anytime. Anyplace. Anything. Do not give up on them, do not walk away, do not fade away.  They will likely shut you out but they will come to you when they are ready. Don’t force it.

What I know is that I will never, never be in that kind of situation again. I recognize the kind of people who can potentially be abusers and have gained the ability to stand my ground, to set my boundaries and say, “NO,” when someone starts to manipulate me. Has it made me guarded? Definitely. Do I have life-long damage? Definitely. But through it all I have found a reserve of strength within me I never believed could exist. I know my stuffing. While I wish I had never had people like that in my life I can look back now and see that I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone through it. I can look back without regret…well, without much regret…and know that I did the best I could. I can only hope that those men learned something from me. I can only hope that I was the only one they did it to.

I can hope that someone’s Daddy grabbed them by the throat and did what mine was too kind-hearted to do.

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~ by cinderellawasdelusional on August 12, 2009.

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