Collateral Damage No More #52essays2017

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#52essays2017

It’s late afternoon, and I am all into the project at hand, headphones on, music playing, I’m 100% focused.  I see my phone light up, and see a familiar phone number, “woooow, it’s Mr. C, and it has been a very long time since I’ve talked to him, should I answer or not?  I don’t know, especially after that last time…”  Pride be damned, the chismosa in me wants to know whassup, so I pick up the phone:  “Hello”, “Hey Carmen how are you doing? I feel really bad about what happened and wanted to apologize for going crazy with the texts and I want to apologize to your friends for getting all up in their faces but you have to understand that I was receiving so many weird texts and calls and I was really tripping and was scared.” 

Story of my life these past couple of years.

Let me explain the incident Mr. C is referring to:   I had sent out a group text and, sin querer, his number was included on the group text.  The message was a positive one, I was updating friends on my life.  I was getting positive responses from all except for Mr. C.  His responses were of the “eff-you” and “who the eff is this” nature.  A text war ensued when, PJ, another friend included on the text,  jumped to my defense and began to tell Mr. C off via text and then all hell broke loose.   I finally texted both PJ and Mr. C separately to ask them to stop with this back and forth texting madness and promptly received an “ok” from PJ and Mr. C replied “eff off“.  That was close to a year ago.

I didn’t even have to ask what types of calls or texts Mr. C had been receiving because I knew exactly whom he had been referring to.  Regular readers of my blog know that I have been completely cyber-abused/harassed by Joe.   You name it, I’ve seen it, you name it, it happened.  The majority of this mess has taken place publicly and online:  thousands of emails, text messages, social media postings.    I just put my head down and tried to weather the storm and get through my life.    It was painfully obvious that this man needed an outlet for his rage and I was the target.

It was one thing to come after me.  But he took it to the next level:  this person transferred his rage and major issues in his life to people totally unrelated to him.  These innocent bystanders became collateral damage in a fight with someone unknown to them, having to deal with receiving posts, emails, text messages that talked about me in the worst and most vile way, and he would tell these people things that I “said” or “thought” about them – friends, colleagues, bosses, family, even people whom he thought I knew, were not immune.

How was I supposed to deal with that?  I had people calling or emailing me, completely freaked out, offended, angry, afraid by these sick messages and calls.  Many people, for different reasons, turned their backs on me.  Some were afraid:  “I have kids, I can’t be worrying that this guy is following you or something”, some were angry:  “why the hell is he contacting my supervisor? Putting this kind of stuff on my work website?; others attributed it to him being straight-up crazy, ‘why is he putting your phone number out there? Why is he putting my phone number out there? Why is he asking me to fire you?

I couldn’t aplogize for something that I had not done and it got to a point where I could tell in a person’s face, voice, text, or email that they had received one of his disturbing messages.  I was forced to experience extreme vulnerability, I had nowhere to hide, everything was out there for the world to see.  It was almost too much to bear.

The things I did to try to prevent any more collateral damage astound me:

I remember that I screamed out this question to Joe, “WHAT. WILL. IT. TAKE. for you to stop calling my job and letting me work?” after being completely overwhelmed by one call after another after another after another to my OFFICE for at least an hour or more day after day.   My co-workers had nothing to do with this, nor did clients or listeners yet they were collateral damage, their day was disrupted by his pendejadas.   I was stunned when he said that he wanted money, and the amount was in the thousands of dollars.   It was not my proudest moment, but I did pay his price.  Did it work?  No.     I was trying so hard to keep it together and trying to show the world that I was fine and dealing with it.  But the thought of him going after others just to get his point across, was enough to keep me in line, to keep me afraid that he would go off on innocent bystanders in my life – my parents, my siblings, my boss, my friends, my colleagues.

I have since learned that there is no rhyme or reason to this type of person’s madness, that he would resort to anything in attempts to control me or my actions.  The twisted goal was to intentionally damage my reputation, my friendships, spread derogatory messages, false rumors, embarrassing me, humiliating me, damaging my self-image, stealing my privacy and my security.

Joe succeeded, for a short while.   I was worrying about others so much that I forgot to take care of myself, to rest, to destress, to relax.   When I was completely exhausted and broken down, I had nothing left.  You would think that I would have come to my senses.   But there I went again, de pendeja, trying to change things on my own:  I thought, “I’ll meet up with him and try to talk some sense into him, I’ll make him stop calling my parents’ house all night every night”, what did this accomplish?  An argument that escalated into a fight with him taking the keys out of the ignition of my Jeep and leaving me stranded.  Looking back, this was one of the turning points, I had to ask for help… OMG it was a mixture of feeling utterly mortified and relieved at the same time, there was no point in trying to act as if anymore.  My primo didn’t judge me, thank God, as he helped me call the police, get keys made, all the while talking to me so that I would know that I was not alone and advising me to bring God into the mix so that He could help me get myself together.

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Eventually, I LISTENED as my Inner Chingona stepped in to help lift me:   I finally recognized that, for all of my personal drama, that I was always able to get a job, my reputation might have been a little tarnished but I could still work it.   I saw, firsthand, that my family would never turn their back on me – they might be disappointed or angry with the situation, but always there for me.   Friends and colleagues are, slowly but surely, making their way back.  Many of the conversations are similar to the one I had with Mr. C – where they were afraid, angry, and concerned for their safety.  While some have come back, sadly, others continue to stay away.  I can’t blame them, especially as, to this day, they still receive random filth and sick messages.  All under aliases of course and, what can I do?  I cannot control him or his actions.

Aside from collateral damage suffered by friends, colleagues, and family,  I continue to work on my personal collateral damage.  It is extensive:  loss of confidence, loss of privacy, loss of security, the almost PTSD effects of having all of my business put out there in the most negative, destructive way – flashbacks and nightmares can come back when I least expect it.  It hurts to have to relive some of these things but the ONLY way change happens is if you are willing to peel OFF the layers of hurt, humiliation, anger, and embarrassment as you bring this darkness into the light.

E v e r y t h i n g  is now documented, there’s no other way around it.  Having these receipts helped me get justice when I needed it the first time around. The way I see it, things will catch up to Joe eventually.  I can only deal with my collateral damage and continue to keep moving forward.   Part of the healing is to show others that they are not alone, to tell my story, to help someone break the cycle, to not be afraid to reach out, to show others that, yes, I made some SonsaTontaPendeja choices, yet I have come out on the other side.   Peace and, peace of mind, especially, is the greatest feeling ever.

I’ve learned, the hard way, that I must take care of myself, especially as much of my life and work is handled online and via smartphone.   These tips work for me and will really help you be safe and secure.  Also, I might add, you need to start thinking as an abuser does – abusers go thru great lengths to cover their tracks which makes it difficult for you or the justice system to find them … you can learn how to do this in order to take care of yourself, to have your own back, to stay safe, to have peace of mind.

  1. Change your usernames and passwords frequently.
  2. Block your caller ID on your phone if someone is harassing you.
  3. Turn off GPS location facilities on your computer, camera, and phone.
  4. Use a safe email address. Don’t be afraid to create a new one if you have to.
  5. Do not hesitate to block anyone from your social media sites.
  6. Watch who you add as “friends”, red flags are: sites with no profile picture, no mutual friends, sites that were created the day you receive the friend request, weird names, or names that sound contrived, made up.
  7. Use a safe and public computer (i.e. public library) and do not use any computers that belong to people whom your abuser knows. Don’t lend your computer out to anyone.
  8. Delete your internet history (although digital footprints can never be entirely deleted)
  9. Document any and everything that doesn’t feel safe to you
  10. The most important tip:  If it feels unsafe, LISTEN to your Inner Chingona, do not discount that little voice inside of you, our bodies sense danger before our minds get their hands around it.

 

This was not an easy post to think about or write about mucho menos putting my business out there for the world to see.  I actually started this post a couple of years ago but I never seemed to be able to read what I had written so most of these words have lived in the “drafts” section of this blog.   As I read this completed post, I realized something very powerful:  that I am standing in my truth, stronger, and protected, putting my business out there myself – it no longer feels like someone ripped off all of my clothes, pulled out the rug from under me, and left me thrown to the side of the road to die.  My survival depended on me listening to my gut aka Inner Chingona –to learn how to channel my fear and start the long process of fixing the broken pieces of my life.

It didn’t happen overnight.  But it IS happening.

 

#52essays2017

 

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Working my Way Back: THERE…I said it! Teaming up with my Inner Chingona

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As I learned in my class night, everyone reaches that point, that point where you say to yourself, “ya estuvo, no more”.  I was very surprised to reach this point yesterday and, more important, recognize it.

Regular readers know that I have been thru a very complicated and painful year, where I literally had to start over in all areas of my life.   Almost a year ago to the day, I was in the major throes of the drama, thinking to myself, “HOW did I get into this situation? HOW do I get out of this situation? All I want is PEACE!  Will I ever feel normal again?”

When asked last night in class to explain the exact moment where I reached the point of no return, I could offer no answers.  I don’t know, maybe I blocked it out.  Because it seemed that for every good thing that was happening or about to happen in my life, here would come some ‘trancazo’ to throw me onto the ground and twenty steps back.   I remember feeling so numb and unfocused one minute and completely devastated the next.   Actually, I’m a little afraid to find out what the moment is that I may have blocked out, it was likely heavy-duty.

This is why I’m convinced that my Inner Chingona was working with God, Jesus, and the Virgen of G.   There is no way that I could have made the moves that I did on my own, I had nothing left in me.   To go from one job to another from one town to another from one home to another in such a short amount of time after so much had happened to me … and to do so with my poise and professionalism somewhat intact … I had to have had some help.   All I knew at that time was that I needed to get out of the situation I was in the fastest and quietest way that I could.

Fast forward to the phone call I received yesterday, where I just KNEW that I was so over the drama, over the threats, over the fear, over the massive pendejadas, over the “dale con lo mismo”, just over it.  I remember leaving my office to let this person know what was up and, surprise, when he hung up on me, I stood there in the street catching my breath, knowing that, for the first time in a very long time, that I was able to pinpoint the exact moment and second that I moved one step forward and took some of my power back:  3:24pm.

Se dice facil:  it’s easier said than done, that’s for sure.    Maybe it wasn’t done in the most elegant way, cussing into a phone in the middle of the street, but it was, most definitely, what was needed to be done that minute.  Especially after trying to take the high road for more than a year, it was time to work with Inner Chingona instead of letting her do all of the work.

The Aftermath: Refocus. Reset. Restart.

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The Aftermath. Inner Chingona has some complicated work ahead…

—having gone thru a very traumatic situation where all of my personal and professional business was put out all over cyberspace, endless email, text messages, voice mails, and phone calls felt like I had been literally thrown into a hurricane…and NOW my life feels and looks like the aftermath of a disaster: everything is all pulled out of the ground, no foundation left, everything thrown around, nothing feels right yet. The difference between a natural disaster is that people, places, and things get affected with little or no notice. My personal hurricane and havoc that followed WAS planned and executed to create as much personal and professional fallout as possible and, especially, to destroy my spirit.

I’ve lost so much that it is very hard to think about it without getting upset … loss that I did not look for, that I did not want, that I did not deserve. In fact, I just got news that, yet another opportunity has come and gone for me ‘just like that’ — more fallout — which makes me sad and angry. Why do I have to do all of the changing? Why do I have to be one to pay for all of this freakin’ mess? WHY AM I THE ONE who has to lose all of the time?

But isn’t that the way disasters are? There is so much mess that it’s difficult for you and others to see anything positive in that moment. It’s very unfair eso si. All I want is for things to be normal and any sense of normalcy will be impossible without me going thru the piles of stuff, these changes, which happen to be very painful at this precise moment.

I have had to ‘keep on keeping on’ for soooo long now and, when I look back at the time, I see that it’s been a little over a year when it started coming down. It feels like 10 years some days and, as much as I want to snap my fingers and have everything be exactly the same as before…I know that HAD things been exactly the same as before that I would be living my life on the constant verge of a breakdown, that I would be fighting to keep my emotions in check during the day and falling apart every night, that I would be lost in a vicious circle of ‘maybe nothing will happen today’ to ‘chingada madre, what I do now?’, I would be praying trying to keep it all together at events that I was in charge of, I would be making stupid decisions in efforts of controlling the disaster, I would be desperate as I watched colleagues and friend after friend back away from me or I would have to pack up and leave, yet again, without a clue as to where I would end up next.

Getting thru this aftermath will require me to REFOCUS, RESET and RESTART. In between the refocusing and resetting, I know that I’ll need to shed a few more tears and I’ll most def need to do that ‘persignada/sign of the cross’ and walk thru my fears so that I’ll have the ‘mevalemadre’ attitude needed in order to be ready to press that RESTART button to walk on solid ground and to build that new foundation. Inner Chingona tells me that I’m down but nowhere near out.

A person,whom I’ve never met, now experiencing what I went through, told me that my personal hurricane is helping her hold on today as the winds of her storm thrashes her around…HOLD ON to your positive spirit, it will be there to help you as you start to clean up in the aftermath…

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Working My Way Back: To Listen or Not To Listen

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As I was cleaning my parents’ house at the Ranch, I looked over at the phone, which said “Messages Full”. Nothing really new, as the phone has said “Messages Full” for over 5 months. As I looked down at the phone, I remembered exactly which voice mail messages were saved on that phone. My familia had lately been asking me if they should keep the messages on the machine or not. I had never wanted to listen to these messages, yet I was reluctant to erase them. Why not?

These messages were from an individual who decided that my familia “had” to hear his side of the story about what an awful person I was. Sadly, I had grown accustomed to this person telling me all kinds of demeaning and disgusting things. It’s amazing how easy it is to push those kinds of comments back — partly because you hope that he is kidding, that if you just shut up and take it, that he will get the rage he feels for you out of his system and NOT do the ‘sinfin’ of crazy things to humiliate you with familia, friends, and colleagues. I learned the very hard way that it is almost impossible to control another person’s actions — especially when they have made their mind up to prove their point, however misguided that point may be. As I had to hear the same things over and over, I knew exactly what would be said, how it would be said, when it would be said, and which names would be brought into these episodes. Once this individual would start in on “lo mismo”, I was usually shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and thinking/saying, “…here we go…”

It’s one thing to have to listen to this person go on and on to me alone…it’s quite another to listen to a recording of this individual saying the same things to my family. With every word and sound uttered by this individual, my normal ‘autopilot’ was OFF. I felt as if I were hearing the words for the first time, as if he were tearing my skin off piece by piece with each word. On one call, he would sound normal, intelligent, and composed; on another call, he would sound unglued, angry, on others, completely drunk or loaded. To hear my private business all out there, to hear each and every derogatory name, to hear each reference to my body and person, was almost too much at times, and I kept turning the machine on and off.

How to move forward from this? First, I totally MADE myself listen to each message, there were 37 of them, some as short as 10 seconds, some as long as 15 minutes, and then I cried out of pinche coraje anger, humiliation, embarrassment, and rage. When I stopped crying, I decided that I would indeed erase each message. Each time I pressed ‘erase’, I gave myself ‘shout outs’ telling myself something positive that I had accomplished during the past 5 months, or I would say a goal out loud that I wished to accomplish within the next 5 months, and I would remind myself over and over again that there are good people in this world who don’t live to harm me, that my familia is right beside me, as are my friends and colleagues. By the time I had erased all of the 37 messages, my positive attitude was very much intact, as was my resolve to put 2012 behind me and keep on keeping on. My life remains very much a work in progress. It is never too late to start over!
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