How to Shun Your Family Forever in 38 Easy Steps

trigger warning:  abuse


This is a little tutorial about how to rid yourself of abuse forever. I know. I wish it worked like that, too. We don’t choose abuse, certainly not when we’re very young, and certainly not at any age. Abuse, and abusers, force themselves upon us. We can’t help it. Let’s make an agreement to call ourselves survivors and not victims.

Abuse can come from a government. It can come from an intimate partner. It can come from a parent. In my case, it came from my parents, their parents, their friends, and old men who paid my parents for the privilege of abusing me.

I know.  It’s really icky.  That’s why I put “Trigger Warning.”  Too much to absorb, isn’t it? It doesn’t take 38 steps. It doesn’t go away forever. Yet I survived.

Not all survive. Some will take their own lives. Abusers and governments will murder their would-be survivors. The would-be survivor can’t help it. Let’s call them survivors, too, because they did all they could.

You don’t think that a creature being abused does nothing, do you? You are off your nut if you believe that. Nobody stays and hangs out for intimate partner abuse, for example, because they want to stay. There’s force. There are reasons. Their finances, the people they see, friendships, their children, their psyches are all being manipulated by the abuser. There are those who refuse to believe that. We must red-flag them. We must keep our distance from deniers as much as possible.

When a survivor of intimate partner abuse, for example, attempts to leave the abuser, the chance of the abuser murdering the survivor goes up like a million percent. I’m excluding references to academic material in this piece. But know that I completed an internship at a domestic violence shelter and I learned all of this. Learning all of this helped when I had to leave an abusive intimate partner.

Leaving that dude terrified me. He scared me a lot. Over months, through subtle and overt manipulations, he’d controlled my self-esteem. I believed I had no value: only my actions gave me value. So I served him, in a sense, in order to gain a sense of value. He put down my job, my friends, my income, my apartment, my cat, how I lived, my choices – anything he could lay his hands on.

I managed to come out of it. I lost or quit 4 jobs because of how I began to believe that they were worthless, as he told me. It took a constant vigilance being with him. The trickiness of navigating his moods and behaviors exhausted me. The stress affected my work.

Friends fell off. This man allowed very little contact between me and my friends. He insisted on having every minute of mine accounted for. He called my workplaces repeatedly – I guess to make sure of where I was. Outside of work, he, in his way, required me to be present with him at all times.

I dissociated, I guess. Do you know what that means? It means to leave your body; leave your mind. If you’re physically and psychically and emotionally trapped, you take your mind somewhere else, and your body does things by rote in order to keep up appearances.  You know – like using body language and facial expressions and inflections to your words in such a way as to avoid inciting your abuser as much as it is possible to.

It was easy for me. I did it automatically, separating from myself during stress. When the fight or flight response took over my body, I either left my body, or, if I was safe from harm, I acted out. I always acted out at work.  Because I lived through untenable cruelty  in my family, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s another essay. In the presence of an abuser, where it was not safe to make a quip, or lose my temper, or curse under my breath (as I did at work), I left my body. I learned when I was two or three years old, I think. Memory is so spotty. It’s because I was two different people. Huge chunks of time go unaccounted for in my memory. That’s dissociation.

I imagine the survivors in Syria and the refugees have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Anyone surviving a war, or fleeing from war, or having grown up in poverty, or as a survivor of racism or transphobia, or of growing up on a block where people got shot…they’d have PTSD. It’d be hard for them to get and keep a job. That’s a guess. Maybe work is their refuge. Everyone’s so different.

Sometimes I want everyone to be like me so that I feel validated.



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