This is my story of how something so right went so wrong…
The small group of volunteers I worked with had become a close knit family to me. We worked hard, but we also knew how to have fun. I learned more life lessons in what I did and who I worked with than I thought I ever would doing anything else. I learned valuable people and customer service skills, I learned how to stick with things, to commit, to go even though “I didn’t feel well” (excuses I used to own in every area of my life) I figured that I may not receive a check for what I did, but I felt I got so much more than that. I felt a strong friendship and support system from the folks I worked with, a special bond I hoped we’d always have. I was learning valuable life skills. I got to meet amazing people. I was happy. But most of all. I finally felt like a “normal” person.
Honestly, I loved it. I loved what I did. I loved how it made me feel like a “normal” person, the sense of accomplishment and pride it gave me.
How could something so right go so wrong? I started out doing simple things, before I knew it I was doing more and more. He made it clear from the beginning that I was expected to be there for every event. Seemed like a lot at first, but I was having a lot of fun meeting all the musicians and getting to do meet and greets with them. Before I knew it I was in too far, too deep. I was hanging posters for him all over town, going early to help him set up and staying late to tear down. I was being used and manipulated for his purposes. Anytime I wanted to leave or cut back I was told that my husband was controlling me, or that I owed him for this and that and would use the guilt trip of “I would never do that to you.” Or “Stick around. I’ll make it worth your effort.”
Funny thing was, it was starting to not be worth my effort anymore. I was feeling more and more tired and stressed. The late nights of tearing down was cutting into my paid job, I was starting to realize what kind of person he was and starting to get bad vibes. I cast them aside telling myself that it was my PTSD from my rape and I wasn’t going to say anything if I was just paranoid. So I’d keep on doing the horrible cycle. By June and July of that year I was smoking up a storm (mostly when we had a show) and trying to control my anxiety attacks. I felt I was losing it. When he found out what was going on, he got me alone as he always did (he’d make sure he took me home because he thought I’d feel safer that way.) and he did the manipulating guilt trips again, reminded me of all the reasons I had loved doing the shows and I gave in.
So, I continued on for a bit more. Still smoking up a storm whenever something was related to him. I was starting to feel that bad vibe more and more that I was not safe and maybe it wasn’t just paranoia.
The last straw came when he brought posters to my work and pretty much demanded I take them even though we weren’t hanging posters at the time. I told him that and he still was shoving them on me. Finally he says “Well, are you going to take them or not?” And huffed out when I wouldn’t.
That is when my eyes opened up the manipulating selfish man he was.
I went home that night and googled manipulation and everything fit him to a T and everything he put me through. I knew then I had to get out. To protect my family and my mental health I had to take my life back.
But, I was terrified of him because every time I tried before he would hook me right back in. I felt like I was in a domestic abuse situation. It was all the same feelings to me.
Thankfully, I got a couple friends to really know what was going on. My one friend supported me through text message and the other in person.
I managed to “squeak out” at our last outdoor show that I wanted to resign. He said “Fine! Quit!” And immediately cut me out of his life.
I was relieved and devastated. So many emotions!
I still have a lot of emotions as I can see things clearly for what they are.
But, I learned some of the most valuable lessons of all. That I am prone to manipulating and abusive people so I have to constantly work on my boundaries.
I learned to set personal boundaries and not give my whole life to anybody or any volunteer job.
I have learned to stand up for myself and my rights.
I’m an advocate for others and I was hiding in an abusive situation myself.
I learned I could be brave and face the feelings and aftermath of emotional abuse again.
And, although it continues to be a journey I’m starting to feel better and better. I have my life back. I get to spend valuable time with my family again, I have more energy than ever and I’m kicking butt at my job again.