I woke up this morning thinking about how different my life is now compared to three years ago.
Back then, my hair was falling out and I was always on edge. Tears streamed down my face several times a week because no matter what I did to avoid fights, I was constantly doing something wrong in my ex's eyes.
This morning, I thought about how far I've come. Just two years ago when Scott and I weren't back together yet but we were spending time together, I was still experiencing PTSD-like reactions.
The excerpt below (from my upcoming book called TNF: One Woman’s True Story of How Intuition Helped her Survive and Heal From Abuse) illustrates just how much narcissistic abuse affects you subconsciously.
We spent time together as a family and we spent time alone just hanging out without any pressure. He saw me through what I know were PTSD reactions to the abuse I’d endured for so long.
One night, we went down to one of our favorite Italian restaurants in town. As I sat down in the booth, it hit me that I was still unconsciously choosing the side of the booth that didn’t face the door. In an effort to be fully open with him, I shared my revelation.
“Scott, I just realized something,” I started.
“What do you mean?” he replied nonchalantly while looking over the wine menu.
“Well, I didn’t realize I was still conditioned to pick the seat that doesn’t face the door.”
“Wait, that was a thing?” he questioned, putting down the menu. “God, Kiers, I’m so sorry . . . what happened?”
“You know how the eye contact thing was a big deal to him?” I said. “Well, one time, when we were traveling, I took a seat in a Mediterranean restaurant that faced the door. It was during the day so the light was kind of blinding me when the door would open and I would instinctively look up.”
“Don’t tell me . . . he thought you were scoping out other men,” Scott said shaking his head.
“Yes, that’s exactly it,” I went on. “If I wasn’t being accused of checking out other men, then I simply wasn’t present with him. I was too busy looking at the door, apparently.”
He reached over and grabbed my hands and said how sorry he was that I went through that, and that I was still going through that.
“I just can’t believe that I’m still doing it, even though you are not him, and I know that.”
It's been two years and a few months since my recovery started and I'm proud to say I no longer unconsciously pick the seat that doesn't face the door, my hair is growing again, and I haven't cried (aside from when I watched the end of The Notebook this morning) in months.
Life is calm, peaceful, and fun. The way it's meant to be.
If you just left an emotionally abusive relationship, know that it gets so much better. Just give yourself time. <3
For more information on narcissistic/sociopathic abuse, check out these past blog posts:
HOW TO SPOT A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
PROCESSING THE EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL AFFECTS OF ABUSE
ADDICTION: BIOCHEMICAL BONDS OF NARCISSISTIC ABUSE
This puppy—all 88,000 words—is finally heading off to my editor! Woohoo!! "TNF: A True Story About How Kids in Spirit Helped Me Survive and Heal from Abuse" is the working title/subtitle but that could easily change. Thought I'd share part of Chapter 18 (the unedited version, of course)......
The restraining order made me feel like I’d done everything I could to protect myself but there was also the minor detail that I still lived on the first floor of the apartment complex. And he knew that. Given what I’d endured and the fact I was standing up to him, I worried he might try to confront me in person. I’ve never known anyone to drive all night like he did when we were together. There were times he prided himself on driving across the country in 3-4 days time.
All of this led me to knock on the apartment manager’s door and explain what had been happening, that Scott and I had reunited, and that I now had a restraining order against Blane. “Luck” would have it that the apartment complex manager had dealt with a similarly abusive ex and had, at one time, woken up to her abuser having snuck into her first-floor apartment. He hid under her bed before he made himself known to her. She knew all too well what I was potentially facing.
To say she was sympathetic is an understatement. She was super happy to see Scott and I back together and not the least bit timid when she told me that other tenants frequently called the office to complain about the yelling they heard coming from my apartment. It turns out, others were equally as worried as the maintenance man was when he called the police.
She said because I held in my hand an official restraining order against him for domestic violence, I was legally allowed to get out of my lease. Scott was not; however, because he wasn’t on the order. He would have to file his own case against Blane and that wasn’t a viable option. In that moment, we hatched a plan. His two-bedroom apartment was about to become a four-person home until his lease ran out.
Later that night, we sat down with the kids at dinner to tell them what we’d learned and what we wanted to do. They’d been through so much but we had a feeling that this move would be welcomed. Especially because we let the kids have the two bedrooms and we set up our bed in the living room. Loft-style living for seven months sounded like a fun adventure. And who could argue that placing your bed just inches from the kitchen was a bad thing?!!
Grace and I scooted out after dinner to run errands and when we came back, part of our apartment living room had been moved up to Scott’s place by Scott and Noah. It was so fun to see the excitement on both of their faces when we walked into his apartment.
We had a blast making our “tiny home” work for us and took pride in our innovative layout. Being under one roof again was a dream come true and a financial godsend. Having hemorrhaged money with Blane, it was nice to feel like I could breathe a little bit, again.
But mostly, I was just relieved to feel like I could actually physically breathe again. I’ve never been a real “cuddler” but the first few months we were back together, it’s all I wanted to do. I felt safe and happy again nestled in Scott’s arms while we watched movies in our living room bed. Life was beginning to normalize thanks to Scott and the kids, my therapists, my friends, and my resolve to undo the subconscious programming that kept me locked in the cycle of abuse.
It took about six months for my body to calm down chemically from the addiction to the abuse known in many circles as trauma bonding. Normality and awareness were the cures. Then it came time to kick the cigarette habit that had spiraled out of control towards the end of my time with Blane. Intuitively, I knew I could do it and it wouldn’t take much effort since I was out of the abuse but it took two tries to get there. On the second try, I quit cold turkey. I surprised myself with the sudden switcheroo after using cigarettes for coping with relationship abuse for so long.
Even when I received a Facebook message from a man I didn’t know who shamed me for speaking out about the abuse I endured, I didn’t race to the closest convenience store to buy a pack of Virginia Slims. I simply sat at my desk, frozen.
I didn’t know this man named Scott Tullman but I decided to accept his private Facebook message out of curiosity. I didn’t know what to expect, but in that moment, I didn’t think it would be something scathing and shaming. Turns out, I was wrong. Mr. Tullman told me how horrible I was for talking openly about the abuse I endured in addition to lots of other lovely digs. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this message could be my ex.
I wrote back that I thought it was so strange that he was writing me about something he had no experience with, and that maybe he should support women who report abuse versus shame them. Naively, I still didn’t think it was a fake profile. After I wrote back, I blocked him.
About an hour later, I received another message request from a woman named “Karen” claiming to be Scott’s wife. My jaw hit the floor. Who were these people who were so invested in shaming me for sharing my journey? Did they know my ex? Maybe I was a bit slow that day, or maybe I just generally believe people and what they are presenting, but I still thought the whole thing was real.
Hours went by when suddenly it hit me: they aren’t real people. They are one person (or one person and an accomplice) disguised as Scott and Karen in order to get the last word and circumvent the law.
I went to work investigating who Scott Tullman and Karen Marie were, starting with Google image searches that revealed both profiles used photos of other people who were traceable. Scott’s photo was of a well-known photographer named Lee. I let Lee know his picture was being used on a fake profile; he was grateful.
Karen’s photo was of a bartender in NYC. I used my detective experience to connect more dots: Karen and Scott lived in different areas of the country yet Karen and Scott both reviewed the photography business of a woman named Kim on Facebook. Kim was connected to— you guessed it—Blane. Kim reviewed Blane’s HOUZZ profile yet when questioned directly by Egan, she denied knowing Blane or Scott, her supposed client. The connections were pretty clear to me but getting Facebook to give me the IP information proved impossible.
I remembered what the detective at Flagstaff PD said: “You know that when you file a restraining order, it doesn’t guarantee your safety, and you can pretty much bet he will try to get around the order by sending messages somehow.” I immediately sent her all of the evidence I found and she urged me to see what I could get from Facebook but warned me it would be difficult. Again, she was right.
He violated the restraining order which technically meant he should have been arrested and taken to jail but I could never get the IP info from Facebook which was the very thing I needed to present to the court. This is just one of the ways abusers can break restraining orders regardless of how much evidence piles up. It was beyond frustrating, to say the least, but not something I wanted to dwell on once I realized I had no recourse.
The only thing I could do was help others who were in similar positions so I wrote a blog post about how to research fake profiles. Maybe, just maybe, I reached one person who was able to put their abuser behind bars for breaking a protective order. I know I reached Kim and Blane because miraculously Scott Tullman’s profile photo using Lee’s image disappeared and was replaced by an untraceable stock photo. Someone had been reading my blog.
“You’ve got to be mistaken.”
“His kids (adult kids) will be devastated if they find out.”
“How can you be sure this happened to you? That it was him?”
“We were never with him during evening time nor did we spend the night.” (As if sexual abuse can only happen at night.)
“You realize being vocal about this hurts all of us, right?”
I heard all of these at various times since I came out with what happened to me as a child. These are not reactions from cold-hearted, distant people. They are the reactions from loving, caring, heart-centered women in my family. Hurting them was the last thing I wanted to do but if I kept my secret to my grave, I would not have been honoring Little Kiersten, who carried the weight of all of the abuse for 35 years.
I soon realized protection of self and others (others that were not me) was the underlying motivation for the disbelieving responses. And I had every right to be angry as hell.
There I was, then age forty, stunned that I was being questioned the way I was, even after all the evidence proving my visions were pretty spot on. At least according to decorated police detectives with whom I volunteered helping to solve cold cases. Granted, no one wants to believe anything like this can happen to a child yet every year 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. And these are the “reported” numbers. What about all of the kids like me who didn’t report it because they blocked it from their memory until years later? We are apparently just the ones who “want attention,” according to many who don’t believe in repressed memories.
Let me tell ya, if I wanted attention, this would not be the way I’d go about it.
I know in my heart NO ONE could have stopped what happened to me. He was going to do what he did, like he did to so many and he was damn good at getting away with it. It’s the hallmark of the sociopath, many of whom are charming, good looking, funny, and easy going. The man who sexually abused and raped me between the ages of 3 and 6 admitted to sleeping with over 100 women, young and old, during his decade-long marriage to a family member. I know I’m not the only child he abused, as well. “It didn’t matter the age, Kierstie,” said one of my favorite people who is now in spirit. “It was and is the cycle of abuse, generation after generation. You’re a cycle breaker.”
FUCK. I’m a cycle breaker. A cycle breaker who swears when talking about the weight of being a cycle breaker.
Now, if you’ve read my story or watched my TEDx talk, you know that it took channeling information (visions) about other children who had been sexually abused and murdered and subsequent validation from detectives around the country to make me take visions of what I endured seriously. I didn’t ask for any of the visions but they came anyways and when I finally realized I, too, was in the same unfortunate club, it made more sense why I was having the visions of others in the first place. It was scary and emotional, to say the least. I also had to endure gynecological surgery at age 19 to repair what I now know was scar tissue damage from being raped as a very young child. This is not something that’s uncommon, according to fellow survivors who endured abuse around the same age.
My first sexual experiences were terrifying and odd. I automatically went into a very submissive, “just lay there” role. It was what I knew to do even though I didn’t remember it then. Later, I would go on to have panic attacks when any kind of weight was on me.
The “proof points” just kept stacking up:
But back to what happens when you shed light on a dark family secret. Most times, I can quell the anger I still feel because I know their reactions are very human, very self-protective, and at the core, shame-based. I know they love me and would love to make this all go away for me and for them any way they could. It doesn't make me love them any less.
But sometimes, the anger rises. I think about how I would react if one of my kids came to me years from now talking of abuse inflicted by a distant relative. I would do whatever I could to help them and I would be hell bent on advocating for them. You'd have a hard time keeping me from going after (via communication or in person) the person who inflicted the abuse. I would campaign on behalf of my kids sharing what I could have maybe done differently and signs to be aware of in cases of childhood sexual abuse. Hell, I would own it all even though, from a spiritual perspective, I do understand that some things cannot be avoided in life. I naively believed that specific family members who were also hurt by him the most would rise up and want to get to the bottom of it with me—that they, too, would want justice for what he took from me. (My parents have been wonderful—they have shared and acknowledged what happened and cheered on my TEDx talk.) Instead, I realized that everyone has their own capacity to go deep and for many, a couple inches below the surface is about all they can go. Maybe it’s generational? Maybe it’s part of the non-cycle breaker DNA. I’m not really sure, but here are three things I’ve learned from my experience sharing what happened to me with my family:
To all of the warrior cycle breakers out there, I’m hugging you. It’s not an easy road but it’s a necessary one if we are going to eradicate this type of abuse for generations to come. Your voice and your story are important and whether you know it or not, in addition to helping heal your inner child, you’re literally helping heal generations of pain by shining a light on yours.
Keep shining and know you have an F-bomb throwing friend in your corner in Flagstaff, AZ who believes you and is grateful for your voice. After all, you’re one of the strongest people on earth—you’re a fucking cycle breaker.
* If you'd like to share your story, I welcome it. Please either share it in the comments or send me a message on the contact page.
It's been a bit of whirlwind lately but a good one. After I got the TEDx Talk edited and uploaded, life quieted down enough for me to return to writing the book. I'm up to almost 71K words (235 pages, double spaced). I'm through the toughest part, thank God, and I'm writing about when Scott and I got back together— the fun part!
But alas, I'm also to the part where my ex reached out via Facebook Messenger using fake personas to try to continue abusing and shaming me. As the cop I was working with said, "he needs the last word..he'll find a way to break the restraining order, likely in written form." She was right. He (or they) created two personas, it seems, with the help of a friend named Kim: Scott Tullman (from Bridgeport, Connecticut) and Karen Marie (from Clearwater, Florida) are the fake profiles.
As I was looking back at the blog post I wrote about it in order to include it in the book, I got curious. I wanted to see if Mr. Scott Tullman was still online or if he/they deleted it. Karen Marie is nowhere to be found unless she’s changed her name. :)
I was surprised to see Scott Tullman's profile still active...only now he has a new profile picture and a few public posts to make it look like he's a real person. Thank goodness he changed his pic because he was sporting a photo of a real, traceable person (as opposed to a stock photo) when he wrote to berate me. Apparently, he/they read what I'd written on my blog about how to suss out fake profiles and how I knew he/they boldly used a photo of famous photographer, Lee Cherry, as "Scott Tullman" which led to me reach out to Lee and tell him what was happening. He was grateful for the knowledge that his likeness was being used elsewhere. They smartly deleted Lee's photo and added a new one. I can see this because I'd previously blocked Mr. Scott Tullman but then unblocked him so the ridiculousness is all available for viewing.
I initially wrote about how to investigate profiles you may think are fake because apparently this is super common, according to Flagstaff PD and countless women who were in relationships with abusive men. (It happens with abusive women, too.) In my case, an abusive man and one of his "friends" did whatever they could to get around a restraining order, even though what they did technically violated the restraining order and he should have been hauled off to jail. It's super hard to get cooperation from Facebook in these cases to provide IP info but just knowing abusers stoop to these levels is the key. And providing evidence to keep on record with the PD is also key.
Kim, his friend who is also a client of his as shown on HOUZZ, has denied knowing Scott Tullman in writing, even though Scott gave a rave review for her photography services. Oh, and Scott Tullman likes the same companies Kim likes and promotes. Ah the tangled web that is woven online, not to mention that Kim and my ex are “friends” on social media and she was warned by a mutual friend to be wary of him and got defensive.
The irony of all of this is that people believe both parties to be above board, kind, caring, good human beings because that’s the picture they’ve masterfully painted of themselves for all of social media to see. Peas in a pod, I’d say.
Sadly, this is the stuff you need to know goes on when you get out of an abusive relationship. And you need to know how to investigate and document. Not only do you need to be vigilant about your own protection, but you need to know how to become a gumshoe, as Noah would say doing his best 1940s man impression.
Become a detective. If you need help doing so, please write to me. I’ll share everything I’ve learned about detective work from partnering with cops on actual cases as well as what I’ve pieced together on my own.
In the meantime, I’m gonna go back to writing about life after abuse and how freakin’ amazing it is to be in the here and now.
Read more about how to file a restraining order and what happens after you do.
I want to share a quick story about life after death and the influence spirit can have on your life. So, as most of you know, I gave a TEDx Talk on November 3, 2018 and have been waiting for TEDx corporate to upload my talk on their site for 7 months. I posted about this a few days ago when I finally said "enough" to the waiting game with no end in sight.
I've shared excerpts from my upcoming book with my Facebook friends about my connection to a young man in spirit named Jason who passed at 23 from a heroin overdose. I've known his mom, Yvette (and Jason in spirit), for many years now. I've credited he and his mom with helping me through and out of the abuse I endured from 2014-2017. In fact, he was the first to alert me to the fact that the abusive relationship (which wasn't abusive in the early days) was not what it seemed.
On the flip side, I've helped guide and support Yvette and even channeled the location of her then-lost cat. (She found her!) She lives in Connecticut. We hit it off when we met through the Little Light Project nonprofit I used to run and she and I are both abuse survivors so we check in on one another a lot.
The day of the TEDx Talk on November 3, I was chatting with Yvette on Messenger after my talk and she reminded me that it was Jason's "angelversary", otherwise known as the day of his death. I told her I was sending her hugs and then promptly felt full chills from head to toe. And then I hear Jason say, "I've got your back, Kiers." It was clear as day.
He's the one who had been saying I was going to do a TEDx talk all this time when I really doubted I'd get picked because of the subject matter. But still, I trusted him. And I got picked.
Anyhow, I was feverishly working Sunday (June 2nd) to get the TEDx talk ready for publishing. I felt this intense push to get it done that day and decided to upload the talk to YouTube that night before sharing it on social media the next day. I felt closure and relief on all levels the minute I hit UPLOAD.
Prior to TEDx telling me to butt out of trying to get answers last week, Jason came in spirit gave me the heads up that there was big resistance and fear about sharing my talk on TED's end. I thought to myself that seems about right since it had been about 5 months since I filmed the talk at that point even though I went through many rounds of approvals with TEDx Sedona prior to giving the talk. I did find a published TEDx talk by a wonderful medium and intuitive healer named Jill Willard so I thought it was odd that they had so much of an issue with my talk when hers was published without a disclaimer.
But back to Sunday night.... As soon as I finally uploaded the video to YouTube, I saw a post from Yvette about Jason. I hadn't been on Facebook that day because I was knee deep in iMovie edits on my "uncensored" TEDx talk. Guess whose birthday it was on June 2? You guessed it—it was Jason's 44th birthday.
I sat back with my jaw on the floor thinking NO WAY. I hadn't planned on publishing my own TED Talk nor had I given a date any thought. I just felt pushed to get it done and out there on June 2nd.
Immediately, I wrote Yvette and told her what I was doing. She couldn't believe it either and then a second later, Jason came in saying, yet again, "I've got your back, K."
Seriously, what are the odds that the two most important dates related to my TEDx talk are his birth and passing dates?!?
I'm forever grateful for both Jason and Yvette and their protection, love and support. What a gift it is to know them both.
Loved ones in spirit really do have your back, it's just many of us don't recognize it at the time. Even crazy old me. :)
P.S. I also got a nudge from Jason that I might have to continually stand up for myself through the process when he confirmed that the name of the organizer of TEDx is literally one letter off from my ex's name. One letter. Almost identical name. Again, no coincidences.