Why I Suck At Dating

I am a survivor. The difference between a survivor and a victim is that survivors are healed from their traumatic experiences and display no signs of victimization. We got the support we needed and made the necessary changes to move on and live our life to the maximum. We got help and counseling and overcame PTSD. So we are fine now, right? Not necessarily.

The leftovers of pain still remain, but it is not pain anymore, it becomes a defense mechanism. Especially when it comes to start dating again. Dating? Ugh. That’s what I thought to myself, but it turns out I was not the only one who feels that way. Often women and men who have endured domestic violence in a relationship dread dating again. There are victims who continue to be in abusive relationships after abusive relationships; they often do not focus on healing themselves first, thus they are not fully recovered from it. That’s why they are still called victims.

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But still for the survivors, dating is not a breeze. We wonder to ourselves, How will I ever be able to trust that the next person I fall for and want to be with is not another abuser? The reality is, and I’d like to believe so, that most of us have already accepted that the abusive tendencies of our exes has nothing to do with our taste in partners. The three possible reasons why we view dating like a toddler with a plate full of veggies are:

~The person you loved betrayed you and deeply hurt you. You fear for another betrayal.

~You became vulnerable to a person who may used that vulnerability to control you, and you don’t want to become vulnerable again.

~Your trust is lost, or seriously damaged, and to rebuild that ability to trust takes time.

But I think the main reason is, why would you want to risk opening your heart and getting hurt again?

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That goes for me too, but I’m about to be able to count the years I have been single on both of my hands. I wondered why it took me so long, and I realized my reason is:

~I forgot what a healthy relationship feels like.

It is common for anyone who has underwent such a severe isolation for a long time. That means all contact with my family and friends were monitored and inquired, and eventually severed altogether, because it was easier just not to keep in touch with them at all. I had no one to turn to and that was when he had complete control over me.

In the aftermath, I didn’t trust myself to rebuild a normal relationship with anyone, especially with men who were talking to me. I couldn’t look them in the eyes because I could still see his face and feel him judging me in my head.

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It took me a long time- a couple of years and plenty of pinot grigio to bond with my girlfriends again, a lot of dirty diaper changing to join back in with my family, and endless soul searching to finally remove him from my mind and reconnect with public life.

After some time, I convinced myself I am ready for the real thing: DATING. Yes, I’ve told people I’m ready to date again, but it wasn’t easy. I had to start all over again and relearn how to date. I made many assumptions and misunderstandings and tons of communication mistakes along the way. Trust issues have a lot to do with it too.

I KNEW for a fact that in order for me to have a healthy relationship with a partner, COMMUNICATION is the KEY. But if someone said, “We need to talk.” I immediately feel a pang in my stomach, Did I do something wrong? I overanalyze things because sometimes petty comments could trigger strange reactions from me that I couldn’t explain because it is too “complicated”. But the truth is, I couldn’t find the words to describe my feelings because they used to be dismissed as worthless. I couldn’t even bring myself to say I’m sad or scared because I was brainwashed to think it’s my fault. So, I appeared to be “too strong” or became emotionally closed off from other people.

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I envy those people in healthy relationships with open communication and trust; they always seem to have so much fun together. However, a healthy relationship does not just happen. It requires a set of skills to maintain in a safe and healthy way that was lacking in my last relationship. I need to understand those skills. I need to learn to stop punishing myself (by avoiding and shutting people out) and reprogram my mind to remember that I will not get punished for wanting to communicate my feelings. I must forgive and trust myself so I can break free from my shell and let other people enter my life. I guess I still have a long way to go in the dating department, but if you ask me for thousandth time, I will tell you for thousandth time I prefer to be SINGLE and HAPPY than to be in a TOXIC relationship.

P.S.
As for you who are returning to the dating scene after an abusive relationship, I strongly encourage you (and myself too) to keep on alert for any possible red flags. Here are a couple of informative links with the lists of red flag behaviors that you should pay attention when dating other people:

http://www.thehotline.org/2012/09/red-flags-of-abuse/

http://www.caring-unlimited.org/what-is-domestic-violence/for-victims-and-survivors/is-my-relationship-abusive

DeafHope’s Lavender Film Festival

DeafHope

Around a month ago, I wrote, performed, and edited (with a help of Terri’s filming talent, thank you!) and submitted my début film to the DeafHope’s Lavender Film Festival. This video is very special to me not only because it is my first film that I edited entirely by myself, but because the subject is very heavy and sensitive and painful. If it never happened to me, I would not have a gut to create something like this, but it did and I just felt I had to do it. When the project was finished, it’s like I underwent an emotional purging and it was a really surreal experience.

Thank you DeafHope for making me do it. It’s truly a great honor being part of something remarkable and meaningful. I applaud to all other who submitted in their films, even through I haven’t seen theirs yet, I know they are brave enough to spread awareness that it is okay to speak up. Also thank you everyone who’s involved in this film, without you, it will not happen. Thank you again!

“Accept no ones’ definition of your life; define yourself.”

Day of Remembrance

I remembered the entry in my journal I wrote on my 29th birthday a few days after I moved back to DC and lived on the Gallaudet campus. The journal is the flip-top spiral notebook with a drawing of a young girl on it I just bought in Peru a week earlier. Feeling sentimental, I decided to track down the book and when I found it, I finally opened the pages for the first time after three years. It is the only entry in the book. I read and reread it, and I remembered that day very clearly like I was in a brightly lit studio, watching myself in the middle of a television show and no one could see me. I was marveled at how powerful the sensibilities of a memory that lasted only split-second long could do to a person.

The birthday wishes I wrote on the pages were not my true wishes, they were written out of fear and heartache. The words on pages began to fade away and didn’t matter anymore, the feelings of the desperation during that moment overwhelmed me, I just wanted to have everything to be normal again.

I was there in the bright Social Security Adm. office, with the framed print of newly elected Obama hanging above the ticket machine, reminding the poor and the disabled while they wait in a line for their number, It’s time for change. I stood by 29 years old me who spent my birthday waiting for my number to be called, because I was recovering from a bug I picked up in the flight from Peru just three days earlier, and I was seven months pregnant. I wrote in the book on that day because I only hoped for the best, or even better, for the normal life.

Today, I almost lost my nerve writing this blog post. Why? I already admitted in the past that I was a victim of the abusive relationship and spouse’s struggle with substance abuse, and it was not the most comfortable thing to do. Honestly, I’d rather swim in a stagnant pond than to share my fears and flaws with the world, but I wanted to share my vulnerability with you and others, to admit that I’m human and I struggle.

I had to get myself out of the victim mentality and tell myself I will use this experience to grow as a person. To show you the real me, I have to accept myself first. It took me more than year to finally accept myself as a single mother. I felt it was so wrong, that I should be already having a family by now, but was it wrong for me to feel that way? Perhaps you look at me as just somebody who’s trying to get your attention and fulfill the need of your validation and that I should just get over it and move on from my past.

I told myself the same often enough that the thought itself prevented me from doing what I truly wanted to do all along- to get it off my chest and give others the opportunity to read my stories, get inspired and liberate themselves from their ball and chain. My experiences are becoming just stories and no longer a part of me. When I tell my stories, I stop identifying myself with them. I separate myself from them. The stories stay on the paper. They stay in the past, where they belong. Telling them help me burn the pain that I suppressed for years and now they are ashes I rose from.

I knew by starting this blog, I have to build the courage to be OK with who I am and trust the process. Things did and didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, and I learned to come to terms with the state of things in my life and go with the flow. If they are not doing me any good, I’d have to move on. I have an intention why I ventured out in the first place and there’s a reason why it turned out good or bad. Doing something about it is better than feeling bitter about it, but doing nothing about it is worst of all. I still want to see my project comes to its fruition and I don’t know when, but as long as it finds its way to share with the world one day, I will be able to close that chapter for once and for all. Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Freedom is about what you do with it.”

P.S. Thank you to all my friends and family for your birthday wishes!

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Every so often since my last post in May, when somebody tells a story or I read an article or watch a TV program relating to domestic or family violence, I still get goosebumps. Just thinking about it makes me feel sick to my stomach. It’s not easy for me to sit here and type about it, but last week I learned that this month is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). We are already well informed that this month is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with all those pink ribbons everywhere, but you may have noticed the purple ribbons in some places too. They represent DVAM and they are not getting the attention they deserve. DVAM started out as only one day, the “Day of Unity”, in October 1981 and we’ve came a long way ever since.

Naturally, my inner researcher wanted to dig up more information about DVAM. I skimmed through hundreds of statistics conducted by big-time foundations (Avon and Allstate) and the government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although many government websites are down due to the shutdown (think about it, many shelters across the country are forced to close down their services, leaving too many people in need of help), I’ve looked through enough sources to notice the recurring numbers throughout the facts and figures.

The first one is simply tragic:

ONE in FOUR women and ONE in SEVEN men have been victim of domestic violence and experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her/his lifetime.

But this is more tragic:

Nearly THREE out of FOUR (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

But what’s even more tragic is that despite of the fact, only 15% of Americans believe it’s a problem among their friends.

Millions of calls are made to the National Domestic Violence Hotline while TWO in THREE Americans never discussed about it with their friends and THREE in FOUR parents never discussed about it with their minor children.

For Deaf victims, you can go to Deaf Services at the National Domestic Violence Hotline and call their VP number, or go to Resources and Outreach to find a service in your area.

It’s not a hopeless situation, 64% of Americans say they are more likely to help someone out if we talk more about it. It is uncomfortable and sensitive subject, especially for those victims who experienced it and felt they are at fault because it happened to them. The bottom line is it’s way more common than you think. DV isn’t just stories that you hear and sweep under the rug; it deserves as much recognition as those who have or survived breast cancer. When it happened to me, I never talked to anybody at that time, but I hope this will get you talking.

 

http://www.avonfoundation.org/assets/nomore-avonfoundation-studyfinal.pdf

http://www.clicktoempower.org/domestic-violence-facts.aspx#_ftnref15

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/2010_report.html

http://www.ncdsv.org/images/BJS_IPVinTheUS_revised_12-19-2007.pdf

http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/domviol/facts.htm

http://www.safeplace.org/document.doc?id=588

http://dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/#vic

http://www.witnessjustice.org/news/stats.cfm

My (and every other domestic violence survivor’s) Rude Awakening

My new (and absolutely dear) friend, Jon Savage, made this video for DeafHope, an amazing organization founded by a group of Deaf women in the Bay Area in northern California with the mission to end domestic and sexual violence through empowerment, education and services.

When I watched the video, I realized how little I really knew about domestic violence. I had to watch it again and think about what I went through during those years with Renny and it’s frighteningly true that I experienced nearly ALL of what Deanne Bray mentioned about the power and control abuse, and yet I stayed with him that long. I thought I understood domestic violence, but I was in denial for a long time. I’m stopping that and at least what I can do right now is to share with you all this valuable video. Thank you Jon and Deanne!

I’m still here! Part two

When Rex and I returned home in Austin last July (thank you all for your sweet comments on the photos posted on my Facebook wall and Instagram!). I felt much better as a whole person. I could just drop the entire project and move on with my life, focus on Rex and go back to school and find a job, etc., but there’s something deep inside me that just flat out refuses let me give up.

I spent the entire month doing serious soul searching to find the answers to my questions about my film project. Why am I doing it? Will doing it and reliving those memories be good for me emotionally and mentally? Do I want to just shut him out and banish him from my memory forever? Does Renny deserve to have a movie about him? Indeed, he is center of the story, but it’s my story. It’s also the story of many other women and men who experienced or are experiencing the life with substance abuse and domestic violence. It’s easy to look down at drug addicts and dismiss them, but ask anybody who knows, addiction is a disease. It is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde disease. I survived it, I may as well as use my film as the method of telling my story.

I know there are many more people out there who went through similar experiences, but sometimes I feel like I am the only one because I’m a full-time mother and I have to stay home most of time. I have to admit that I haven’t been to Al-Anon meetings. Renny encouraged me to attend one when he was attending NA meetings back then. I thought I could handle it. Man, I was wrong. I know I should have went to the meetings. I should also see a counselor, but I’m not comfortable with sharing my experiences through an interpreter. It doesn’t matter how good he or she is, I don’t like the fact that a third party is involved. I can’t always be sure all my information is conveyed 100% accurately to the counselor. It is already hard enough just talking about this on my blog post; I still have a harder time talking about this in person. I have to swallow my pride before I explain to somebody who asked. The shame is still inside me and I am trying to let it go. I saw this quote somewhere and it can’t be any truer. “There is no shame in making mistakes. All we must do is get over our pride and admit we were wrong.”

To many of you who wrote to me about your experiences: Thank you for sharing with me. I’d like to reach out to other people like you. Your letters help me building my confidence to make my film project happen. I also want to get in touch with the advocates too. If you know of any good support groups in the Austin area, please share in the comment space below. Catherine, my awesome producer and friend, and I are planning something really cool. We’ll make the announcement in a week or two. Last, but not least, please Like on our Facebook page and follow our blog! Thanks so much!