We’re getting political, and raw, for an unusually personal post. I debated on where and how best to share this, and decided that Moonphase was born from the ashes of my demise and escape from domestic violence. Please read to hear my voice and thoughts on what I see in our nation right now.
For some time I had intended to write an essay about all the ways our current administration reminded me of my years of living with a narcissistic abuser. I planned the essay, and even wrote a monstrous draft that was an unruly 3,000 words and fell short of capturing what I wanted to relate to my fellow Americans.
Then October came upon us, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; and then came the presidential collapse—if we could call it that—when Donald Trump and First Lady Melania both tested positive for COVID-19 and the events that followed stirred a nation that was already over-stirred and weary from a strange and surreal trip that began in 2016.
In 2016, I was still with my ex-husband. I had been worn down by two difficult pregnancies, separation and isolation from my family and then, finally, even his family. I was without a car, without financial means, forbidden to work and told often how I was: fat, ugly, dumb, incapable, unlovable, and lucky that he loved me anyway. I was a bumbly bag of bones barely fit to be a mother and destined to be his—grab them by the pussy? He loved Trump and all he said. Trump was, after all, exactly the way the world should be for Alphas like my ex (as he described it).
Trump’s abusive, offensive, degrading spew reinforced and amplified the abuses I heard every day. Once he was elected, I watched the nation turn into an abused spouse: when lie after lie could be unraveled with a simple fact-check, the nation would sit with tight lips with blatant gaslighting subduing us all. See, it isn’t that you truly believe you’re wrong; you know, beyond a doubt with provable points that you are definitely right in whatever the matter is. But your abuser will say there were misunderstandings, you’re the one not thinking clearly, check your dumb head before you say something else stupid…
Does it sound familiar?
We have been gaslit into a pandemic that couldn’t be controlled because we were worn down, nationally, by leadership that made thinking with any clarified autonomy impossible. In the course of my short marriage and the relatively short while of a bumpy relationship prior to our marriage, I faced a tailspin from a poor single mom in her twenties struggling as an adjunct professor, to being a mother of three living estranged from everyone without access to a car and being denied a bathroom to the point I was forced to soil myself in front of my children.
My ex-husband had “quirks,” a self-declared diagnosis of OCD that I at first happily helped him through by following certain rules and protocols. But my kindness and compassion were my own downfall, as eventually this turned into a control tactic in which I must re-fold and re-do the laundry as punishment should a single piece of clean fabric touch the floor or brush against my chest. Or I must wash and re-wash my hands, and toss entire stocks of food or meals that were “contaminated” by something most people would not even consider.
I was subject to cavity checks to satisfy his OCD compulsions. On multiple occasions I was stripped naked to be showered and “decontaminated” if I were to leave the house the “wrong way.” I watched my dignity stripped entirely, and I saw my sense of self morph into something unrecognizable. There were more things, I could not begin to even tell you—and these things have no real bearing here. Just to point out that, when you are abused, eventually you lose sense of right and wrong and moral to a point it is mere survival and you’ll endure things that, perhaps, four years ago you would have never, ever tolerated in your wildest dreams.
When I escaped, I worried for him. I worried he would not be able to fill out all these forms, and worried if he would he understand the police forms and things I was filling out. It was insane. I was worried for my abuser. You can love someone who has hurt you. You can feel indebted to someone who has hurt you. You can feel scared and ashamed for not worrying about your abuser.
And that right there is what called me to write this today, as the President recovers from COVID-19 and baffles us all with disregard for hygiene and quarantine to limit his spread of the virus that is killing Americans in droves. Because—you can be abused and beaten down and mangled beyond recognition and still have that unbreakable spirit that calls you to kindness and compassion. You can still worry and care for a President that has done so many things that are wrong and inexcusable—and certainly, we can have mixed feelings about his health and recovery and the way he is carrying on at the expense of others’ health amid a pandemic.
It is okay to have a melting pot of emotions during a presidency like this. But if you think the president is for you at the end of the day, I’d point out many abused spouses have said the exact same thing after their abuser has done unspeakable things and ended with, “You’re a despicable human being. No one else could ever love you, but you’re lucky I still do.”
I realize this will not change hearts or waiver opinions. But I lost my voice for too many years to sit tight lipped while another narcissistic abuser uses his power to belittle and hurt others. I have thought, for four years, that this nation is at the hands of an abuser and our collective Stockholm syndrome is going to anesthetize us into a complacent hum of subservience. I believe it has, but I hope that as the hum gives way to discord, that we might find the strength to feel the ground beneath us and walk right out the door into a brave new world with better, kinder, more human leadership.