Que QUE? I thought WHERE did this come from?

#52essays2017  31/52

Sunday afternoon.  A very hot Sunday afternoon.  I decide to head to the beach with some of my familia.

As we got to the exit on the freeway, I was envisioning that I would only have to make two right turns off of the freeway and we would be on our way to the beach.  I have gotten off of that exit and made those two right turns thousands of times.

On this Sunday, however, there was construction all over the place and, instead of doing my two right turns, I would have to venture into another very familiar neighborhood, in order to get to my desired street thru town.  As soon as I drove onto that very familiar street, I started doing something that I just do not do EVER:  I started biting my nails and biting the skin on the sides my nails.   I said nothing as I “calmly” got the car thru town and to the street I needed to get to.  As we were driving,  my sister asked me how close were we to his house.  Turns out that we were two or three blocks away.  Sooooo much had happened within that 3-block radius.  Every time I think that I’m over it, something random takes place to remind me that, while I’m good, I’ve got a little way to go.

As sisters do, this girl noticed my sudden and almost-vicious biting of the nails a few moments before.  I was just as surprised as she was and remember saying, “I never do this, huh?!”  I was physically reacting to some of the crazyass things that went down on those very streets, when I still felt powerless, dressed in misery, trying to act like all was normal and ok.     Only thru counseling was I able to discover that PTSD is real.  PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can hit anytime, anyplace, or any way.   These are called PTSD Episodes.  People associate PTSD with being in combat or in prison.  I may not have been in the military at war but fight a battle I have, and I may not have been incarcerated but I never felt free until I started dealing with my life.  Everyone experiences PTSD in a different way.

The symptoms can include scary nightmares, flashbacks or dissociation (acting/thinking as if you are living the trauma all over again), you might worry that you are going crazy.  The problem is not that you are crazy.  Rather, the problem is that you have anxiety because of a traumatic event that you have experienced. (Anxiety BC:  Self-Help Strategies)

PTSD and Anxiety go hand in hand.  Anxiety is a normal and adaptive system in the body that tells us when we are in danger.  This means that dealing with your anxiety NEVER involves eliminating it, but rather managing it.  Anxiety can become a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger.   (Anxiety BC:  Self-Help Strategies)

Where I could usually get thru a PTSD episode by crying, writing in my journal,  saying things like “calmate, todo esta bien” or asking GodJesusVirgenOfG for help; I did NOT want to ruin the mood or frighten my TorresBabies who were all excited to be on a road trip with their Nina.   I guess that, unconsciously, my stress and discomfort had to come out SOME way.

 

There are 5 strategies for getting yourself back together when this type of anxiety hits:

#1: Learning to calm anxiety by slowing down your breathing

#2: Learning how to calm your anxiety by relaxing the muscles in
your body

#3: Grounding techniques

#4: Getting back into your life

#5: Facing your fears

Calming down and breathing deeply will help you immensely if you are in levels #1 and #2.

I was, however,  in level #3 during this episode and the best thing is to ground yourself:  keep your eyes open, focus on the present, and describe where you are, what you see, what you feel at that moment:  I was driving, eyes open, felt my hands on the wheel, the sound of the turn signal, the color of the red light when I was stopped, the color of the green light as I moved forward, the sound of the GPS chick telling me where I should turn.  I know the area very well yet felt the need to put on the GPS to navigate out of there as soon as possible, breathe, breathe, breathe.  I could feel my mind and body struggling for those eternal 10 minutes.  My fingers were in pain after I tried to chew them off minutes before.  It was a trip to watch myself try to eat them off.  Should an episode happen to you, however you decide to ground yourself, remember to take in and describe everything around you at that moment.  Just taking stock will calm you immensely.

Once I got to the beach and helped get everyone situated.  I went straight to the edge of that beach, put my feet into that water, felt the cool water calming me down, watched and felt the waves go back and forth, breathed in the ocean air, and got myself right again.  Thank you GodJesusVirgenOfG.

It’s been all about lotion on my hands today to soothe the rough parts and cuts.   I’ve also spent the day counting my blessings.  Here’s to learning how to face my fears.  It’s easier and less painful than trying to chew my fingers off.

 

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Man of My Nightmares, Mother of My Dreams

#52essays2017

I was sitting down to dinner with one of my roommates when the doorbell rings. My roommate gets up to answer and it is our landlord, a very nice East Indian gentleman. I had just put a spoonful of papas into my mouth and tried to chew it up really fast before going to the door. “How are you Carmen?” he says, “Fine, what’s up?”, “Would you mind coming with me to the office please”? He didn’t seem that worried and, as the offices were really close to the apartment, we didn’t have much time to talk.

As I walk into the office, he asks me to follow him into the back room. My heart fell to the floor and I was in disbelief with what I saw.  I couldn’t believe that he had done this again, always trying to find me, always showing up at random places.  There he was, tied up like an animal, wearing a red and black checked shirt, one of those flannel ones, as it was cold outside. His head was turned so all I saw, at first, was his black hair. Then he turns around, face full of anger and rage, and then I hear his voice, “get me the f#$% outta here! tell this motherf#$%^&* to let me go!” In desperation, I was screaming, “OMG whyyyyy do you keep doing this!”. My landlord asks me if I want to call the authorities and then tells me that he was going to give this guy enough money to get to Elk Grove (?) and for me not to worry. All the while it is scream and cuss-out city with this man.  All I kept thinking was ‘just get him out of here and out of my life!’

So like a sonsatontapendeja, I let my landlord handle the situation thinking “all is good, he’ll be out of here” and actually go back to my dinner. The doorbell then rings again, and there he is, freed from the ropes that held him a few minutes earlier, and he is not screaming this time.  He quietly informs me that, “This is it.  Either you come back to me or I take matters into my own hands”  I remember being stunned, stunned that he actually showed up at my house again, scared of what he was going to do,  angry that I didn’t just call the police,  wondering where my phone was, do I scream? or not?  In the next second, he puts the gun to his face, pulls the trigger, and blows his face off, blood everywhere.

I woke up crying and completely freakiada that night.  I had been having nightmares for well over a week, every night, every time I woke up and fell back asleep, there would be another graphic, violent way that this person would kill himself.  I was getting worried about these nightmares and afraid to go to sleep.   I called the Crisis Center and, luckily, was able to set up time to speak with someone about my troubled and disruptive nightmares.   Turns out they were flashbacks of very negative, drama-filled, bitter times of my life when I did not yet have a handle on my situation.  I felt lucky that these flashbacks didn’t really occur when I was driving or in an important meeting or anything and was able to get some valuable exercises for working through flashbacks/PTSD and to remind myself of how far I have come from those days of madness.

So, guess what I dreamt last night?

I was at the Ranch in our kitchen.  We were all home as I could hear people talking in the other room and the TV was on a low volume.  I was taking out my small red crock pot  so that I could make beans like usual, and she says to me, “I don’t know about the beans in that crock pot…”  Como si nada, I respond, “you’ve never even tasted anything made in this pot,  how would you know?” ” I just know so make the beans on the stove”  Muttering, I start to prepare beans as she tells me to do so.    On the counter, I see a bunch of vegetables thrown all about and I’m like, “what is all THAT for?”, “I thought that I would make some soup for your Dad too so help me cut the vegetables”.  At first, I almost rolled my eyes, and then, in the middle of the dream, I get the knife to cut up the vegetables and smile at her and my mouth drops open. “Mama!!!!!! I’m not having a nightmare! And you’re HERE!”   There she was, Margaret Torres, looking beautiful, w a l k i n g, no cane or wheelchair in sight, she had a dress on and I could hear the click of her heels.    Mama tells me, “I’m always here, you know that;  you should trust more and stop worrying, I’m always here” and then I woke up!

It was the first night that I slept well in days, and, as it turned out, Mama still WORKS it for us, of this I am 100% convinced.   I need no man in my dreams, I do, however, need to see my mother sometimes.  The dream was so real.  I haven’t felt this comforted since my mother passed away in 2014.   That I was able to have a conversation with her was so great.   Thanks Mama!  MargaretLivesInMe.

#52essays2017

Collateral Damage No More #52essays2017

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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