WELCOME BACK

April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Lovefraud: Dancing In The Rain


Thanks, again, for all your comments – I’m glad you seemed to like the more light-hearted approach on my last post! This week there have been so many things I could choose to write about that I simply don’t know where to start. I can assure me, it’s unlike me to be lost for words, but that’s how it feels at the moment.
You see, the past couple of weeks have been magical in so many ways. I have re-connected with old friends. Extraordinary business opportunities are opening up everywhere I turn. Publishing contract now agreed, the words are flowing for my first book (I am so excited!) And as if all that wasn’t enough, one of my dear friends swam across The Channel from England to France this weekend to raise money for the specialist school his severely disabled son attends. It’s an astonishing feat by a very brave man – an ordinary person who faced extraordinary circumstances, and who chose to fight for love rather than give up to despair. He and his beautiful wife have tackled so many challenges over the years since their beloved son was born, and each time they pull through stronger and more determined than ever before. Sarah-Jayne and Peter Windridge-France – I salute you both.
I seem to be living in a great space at the moment – but I know that isn’t the case for so many people within this Lovefraud community. So I decided that, for the moment at least, I’d rather look back at the darker places of my life when I was struggling with the reality of my own living nightmare. I don’t want to belittle what is happening for me now – far from it. My intention this week is to re-iterate to everyone here, wherever you are on your journey, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is so bright and so warm, and it’s longing to bathe you in its healing love. I know this to be true with all my heart and all my soul, and I can say it with conviction, because I’ve been where many of you are now. Okay, my situation and the details of my story may be different, but the hurt, pain and shame are just the same as so many accounts I continue to read on this site.
So today I thought I’d share a story I posted when I was less than a year in to my healing. Looking back it was a horrid time – every day would bring me more struggles, but I simply refused to give in. I focused on the positives, I kept my head held high, I held strong to my vision of a wonderful life. And it worked. It may not have been easy, and there were times when my positive mantras seemed a lifetime away from the reality I was facing – but I stayed firm in my conviction, and also learned to be honest with my emotions.
I hope that this story, written in March 2010, gives hope to people out there that are on their way to freedom. It’s called “Dancing In The Rain”
Dancing In The Rain
I received a lovely email this week, which ended with the following statement: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain and merely opening your hands to receive something better”
It couldn’t have come at a better time, because yesterday was just “one of those days”. They don’t happen very often anymore, and when they do they always come as a surprise. And while I’ve already come through so many battles, I still don’t always handle those sort of moments very well. Yesterday afternoon was no exception. It all kicked off with an email from my solicitor. One of the creditors is chasing particularly hard, and despite the fact that I’ve written to them to explain my situation (that I am going through a divorce, that the debt is a matrimonial issue, and that their debt is one of many that all need to be handled together) and asked them to freeze the account and address queries to my solicitor, they still insist on sending letters demanding payment and a financial statement. Cripes, if they had that they’d certainly stop chasing me, as it’s blatantly obvious that I have no money whatsoever!
So, in my mind, I’d already done my bit in letting people know what’s happening. And also as far as I was concerned, I had explained everything in great detail to my solicitor – and I’m sure you’ll remember the battles I had even hiring the right person! Someone I could trust, and who would be prepared to fight for me and with me. So it came as a bit of a shock when he emailed me with the creditor’s latest demand, and said he thought I should find a debt specialist as this isn’t his field! You could have knocked me down with a feather. Open mouthed and noticing the heat of anger rise in my body, I felt as though all my battles, my research, my hours talking with debt advisors had all been for nothing.
I’ve Failed Again
My solicitor had advised me when we met that the debts were to be handled as a matrimonial issue – and added that any advice I’d already been given by debt specialists had not taken that in to account. We’d already agreed a way forward, and I had fulfilled my part of the bargain by writing to each and every one of the companies who are owed money – giving my solicitor as their contact point. So why, now, was he advising me to seek help from a debt advisor to deal with this one creditor? It made no sense whatsoever, and in fact could jeopardize the whole plan! Just as I thought I had a professional who was on side, understanding, and competent, I suddenly felt I’d been shunted right back to square one again. I had made another mistake and put my faith in the wrong person. The anger suddenly subsided, leaving me feeling ashamed, crumpled and very small. Once again I started wondering where I was going wrong.
It would have been all too easy at that stage to link together all my other ‘failures’ and really beat myself up properly. Trust me, it was very tempting…. and it was as I noticed the return of a familiar sneering voice in my head reminding me scathingly that “I’ll never win”, “who do I think I am”, and “just look at the mess I’m in” that I decided enough was enough. The tears of defeat were already pricking in my eyes, and my emotions were mirrored by the gathering storm clouds outside. Undeterred, I pulled on my coat, shouted to my dog Hamish, and we set out for a walk together.
Well, to be honest it started off as more of a stomp than a walk for me as we marched off towards the river and across the fields together. Geoff had decided to join us as well. He’s my ginger tomcat, and he hates to be left out of things. So it was no surprise when I heard him meowing, calling out for us to wait. I stopped with an exaggerated huff and shrug of the shoulders, hands on hips, eyes rolling and head thrown with a tutting “can’t I get any peace around here?” going through my head (just think of a sullen pouting teenager, for I’m certain that’s how I must have looked). Turning round towards the sound of his meow, I saw him running towards me from around the corner of the lane. My face must have had the sulkiest expression in the world, but Geoff didn’t seem to notice, and just tripped along happily towards us – and if a cat could smile, that’s certainly what he’d have been doing. And there it was – just like that. My mood was instantly broken.
Laughing In The Face Of Adversity
And I burst out laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Here I was, stomping around all alone, carrying my very own dark and thundery mood-cloud with me, and yet my two pets still wanted to be around me, just happy for some attention. They didn’t care that I was in a filthy mood. That I was teetering on the edge of falling prey to that malevolent voice in my head and giving up on all the progress I’ve made. No, all they cared about was being petted and having fun. So I decided to join them. Even though it was raining, all three of us sat by the river bank, Hamish and Geoff taking it in turns to get as close to the water as possible without actually falling in, and both of them coming back for regular petting and cuddles.
What more could a girl ask for? Unconditional love and affection, beautiful natural surroundings that money just can’t buy, and a whole world of possibilities stretching out before me. Who cared about a small creditor getting their knickers in a twist over in England? OK, so my solicitor had slipped up – but then don’t we all do that from time to time? And just who was in charge of creating my great future in any case? Well, me of course. And stomping around in a filthy mood, just because of a small set-back certainly wasn’t conducive to receiving something better in my life! No way, no how!
So I took a deep breath, held my head back, opened my mouth and I shouted. And I shouted. And I shouted. And I shouted. At the top of my lungs – just to make a noise, and clear out any unwelcome emotions that had become trapped inside me. Although a little hesitant at first, I soon got the hang of it and boy did it feel fantastic! Giving me yet another good reason to be grateful that I’m living in the countryside, far away from anyone else. Mind you, the French wouldn’t bat an eyelid – I’m known locally as being a bit of an eccentric!
Back home I contacted my solicitor, correcting him and re-confirming the path I had understood we were following. I instructed him to keep all creditors at bay, asking them not to make any further contact until they hear from him, and not to respond to any more letters or emails. Each one of his letters costs me, and leaves me less money to clear the debts. And he responded beautifully – with an apology and re-focus on the plan. Job done.
So last night I played the piano at full volume. I sang at the top of my voice. And I danced around the living room with Hamish in my arms (that poor dog has a lot to put up with!). And I went to sleep wearing nothing but a dab of perfume and a big fat smile as I contemplated the great future that is coming in to my already fulfilling life.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Lovefraud: Cigarettes And Sociopaths - Stop The Insanity


This week I am inspired to write following another intensely personal experience that happened to me the weekend before last. I was in London, attending Allen Carr’s workshop “Easyway To Stop Smoking”. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that for most of my adult life I have been an on-off smoker.  I have had countless long periods of non-smoking (six months, eighteen months… two years was the longest) and I have never classed myself as a ‘proper’ smoker as I rarely exceeded ten a day. But I had been fooling myself. Because the fact is, as I learned last week, that I was an addict and I had been hooked right from the very start.
During the course of the workshop, I came to the conclusion that addiction to cigarettes bears a striking resemblance to being hooked by a sociopath. The cravings. The misguided love for something that is actually causing harm. And the slow but certain promise of serious disease or disorder. The similarities kept on coming, and I’d like to explain myself in more detail. But first of all, how did I find my way to an Easyway clinic in the first place?
Well, my last period of freedom from the dreaded weed only ended this year. I had been free for many months until I picked it up again at the end of April. I had just broken up with someone I’d cared for and, knowing how much he hates smoking, my immediate act of defiance when we finished was to smoke a cigarette – quite a few in quick succession actually.
“Pah!” I smirked, lighting the first cigarette and inhaling deeply. “That’ll show you!” I added, throwing my head back and noisily exhaling a plume of smoke for extra effect. Hmmm… but of course it didn’t “show him”anything at all. Quite the contrary in fact. Blissfully unaware of my metamorphosis in to an archetypal “Rebel Without A Clue” there I was thinking I was getting at my newly appointed ex, when in actual fact, the only person I was damaging was myself. Doh!
De-Programming
It was only as my smoking habit gradually increased over the next few months – intensified through a new friendship with a ‘proper’ smoker who gets through two or three packets a day (a feat which, thank goodness, I have never achieved – nowhere near!) that I finally decided to do something about it once and for all. Spurred on by encouragement from my sister, who successfully kicked her 40-a-day habit six years ago using the same method, I found myself on Saturday morning in a circle of 17 people (16 women, one man) all desperately keen to join the growing band of happy non-smokers.
It was interesting for me to be a delegate for a change, since in my professional capacity I am always the trainer or workshop leader. So as I relaxed in to the reclining chair, I opened my ears and mind, and prepared myself to soak up everything our therapist, Rob, had to say. Right from the first few minutes he made absolute perfect sense – and the more he explained, the more I understood. Giving us a series of new perspectives on why people become hooked on nicotine, it suddenly struck me that the cigarette works in much the same way as the sociopath. I immediately sat upright in my chair and started paying even more attention to what was being said.
Rob explained that fear is the only thing that keeps people hooked on nicotine. “Smokers” he said, himself free for nine years from a 60-a-day habit, “will think of the cigarette as their friend. They consider it a crutch, something that gives them confidence when they need it. Something that relieves tension – or boredom – and either relaxes or gives energy to the smoker, depending on their need and the situation.”
I noticed how we were all nodding along with everything he said. Each one of us could identify with a situation where we had used a cigarette to give us exactly the response he was describing. Rob had also been there seen it and got the T-shirt, so he knew what he was talking about – oh yes, we were all in this together!
But then he invited us to consider something that came as a bit of a surprise. He pointed out something that, in hindsight, is blatantly obvious – but to which we had all been totally blind.
“How come” he asked “smokers can experience a burst of energy or confidence, an immediate soothing of stress, the relief from boredom, and a sense of relaxation – all from the same drug?”
Hmmm…. The room was silent as brows furrowed and chins were rubbed. He was right. It was impossible. The nicotine wasn’t doing any of this – how could it? How could one drug alone achieve so many varied and contradicting sensations? Simple – it can’t. So it had to be something else.
It’s All In The Mind
Rob then went on to explain how the tobacco companies’ only aim is to get people hooked – and that is exactly what the nicotine drug does. It is so effective that it can create a physical need right from the first time you try a cigarette. Yes, the physical desire can be created almost immediately, but it’s the mental control and manipulation that keeps people stuck in the cycle of being an addict. The subtle advertising messages and subliminal promotion of tobacco, many of which people will already have identified with before they taste their first cigarette, makes us think that we’re free, confident, full of choice and happy. In actual fact it couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re caught in a trap. We’re fearful of living without our packet of ‘little friends’. We’re totally hooked because we’ve been duped by deliberately deceptive influences – and we didn’t notice it happening in the first place. Even worse, none of us in the room had any idea that it was still going on, even up to the very moment when Rob explained the truth!
That was my “ah-ha” moment. Because it was at that point that everything tumbled in to place and, while our therapist continued talking about nicotine addiction, I could see so clearly how the same process happens when we are conned by a sociopath.
Brainwashing
In the case of cigarettes, we are lulled in to the idea that they are somehow sophisticated. They make us cool, grown-up, or part of the in-crowd. Think of some of the publicity shots of early Hollywood stars. Think of the way they exuded style and glamour – and I’ll bet you’ll also be able to recall images of them with a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Sensual, heavy-lidded eyes beguiling our senses, while wispy plumes of white smoke weave their way through the background. Subconsciously we fall for the con that the cigarette is cool – and because of that we ignore the dangers. Rob called it brainwashing.
How does that relate to the sociopath? Well, in my particular case, I believed in fairy tales and magic. I fell for the whole idea of a knight in shining armor and of living happily ever after. I don’t believe there’s necessarily anything wrong in that. But I do believe that the sociopath hijacks these romantic notions, twisting their nature and turning them in to weapons of destruction that are used against us to beat us down and bleed us dry. Tobacco companies deliberately set up seductive subliminal messages to promote the coolness of cigarettes so that people ignore the dangers. Sociopaths deliberately play on the inherent good nature and desire for happy endings that are nurtured by most people. Like the cigarette, sociopaths mask their intentions by tapping in to some of our most deeply held beliefs and values – often from childhood.
Now, OK, I know that it was my own choice and many would say my own fault for getting hooked on cigarettes. It wasn’t easy you know…when I first started in my late teens, it took a whole heap of determination to push through my natural instinct to gag on the choking fumes! Yes, it took focus, dedication and months of practice to perfect the art of smoking – and for years afterwards I felt stupid, guilty and disgusted with myself for allowing myself to get hooked in the first place. But there was something about the way Rob described the malevolent nature of nicotine as a drug, coupled with the years of deliberate and sophisticated misrepresentation that there is something cool and hip about smoking, that suddenly caused my guilt-trip guy-ropes to snap free and release me from their grip.
Deliberate Duplicity
It was exactly the same feeling I had when I finally understood that the person I had called my soul mate for ten years was nothing but a cold, heartless sociopath who had deliberately conned me. Exactly the same as the nicotine (and more to the point the tobacco companies who promote the drug), his only intention had been to get me hooked. To have me believe that he was my friend – the only person who truly understood me. To make me feel that with him I could feel safe, special, loved and protected. That he could give me confidence and energy, as well as make me feel relaxed and at ease. In short, to believe that my life was not, and could never be, complete without him. Bingo! Exactly the same methods used by the tobacco companies! Methods that allow the cigarette to masquerade as an enhancer, an enabler, a friend – rather than the killer we all know it to be.
Rob went on to explain that when we have the first cigarette, our energy goes down because it’s so horrid and alien to our body. But then we get a boost from the drug (and from the sense it’s naughty, rebellious, the beginning of sophistication – or whatever other thought processes we might have adopted) and we associate that boost with the cigarette. Then, as the nicotine leaves our body, we start going down again until the next cigarette gives us the next boost. But the thing is, we can never ever get back to the ‘normal’ feeling we had before we took our first puff – the nicotine denies us that sensation. All we can ever do is to get ‘nearly there’ and become more and more dependent on the rush that we get from the cigarette. Over time, the cigarette wears us down – but it’s so slow that we don’t notice the steady decline in our energy. The graying of our skin. The unhealthy changes to our appetite. The increasing feelings of emptiness and isolation. The steady lowering of self-esteem. But we still cling to it because we think it’s our friend. We believe that the only thing giving us a boost is the cigarette, whereas in actual fact it’s the very thing that is killing us!
Of course I don’t know how many of you are or have ever been smokers. I would guess it’s not many, since America has been much quicker and more efficient than Europe in catching on to the dangers of smoking! So it may be that there are only a few of you who identify with process Rob described as an addiction to cigarettes – but I have a sneaky suspicion that there are many of you who recognize those same symptoms from your experiences of being in an abusive relationship?
If It Can Work For Smokers…
For me, it has been hugely helpful to see the cigarette as a sociopath. To realize that far from it being a crutch, it was causing me more damage than I could possibly imagine – on more levels than I had previously understood. The funny thing is, although I’ve ‘given up’ before, I had never before fully comprehended the severity of the trap I was in. Now that I do, I know for certain that I am now a 100% confirmed happy non-smoker, just like the countless thousands of other people who have been through Allen Carr’s process.
And it got me thinking. I know how hard it can be to maintain the no contact rule with a sociopathic ex. I understand that the temptation, the pull, can be so very strong that we are often in danger of giving in – just like me when I said to myself “just one cigarette – one can’t hurt!” even though my conscious mind knew the dangers.  Surely it’s the same with the sociopath when we are tempted to give in, saying to ourselves “Just one phone call” “Just one cup of coffee” “Just five minutes”… isn’t it?
So I’m now wondering whether it might be possible to create a process, similar to the workshop I’ve just attended, where people like us can learn how to break free from abusive relationships for good. Where we can learn to reclaim our lives and feel good about ourselves. A workshop that follows such a well-researched, carefully designed robust process that can guarantee delegates get their freedom back, right there and then, or your money back.
Well, the Easyway process is already successful in helping people kick tobacco, alcohol, drug abuse and eating disorders…. Complete with full money back guarantees. So you know what? I have a deliciously niggling feeling that with enough research and determination, it just might be possible to develop a similar process for people like us.
Hmmmm…. Now that’s given me food for thought….


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Lovefraud: Standing Up To The Bully


This week’s post was inspired by a heartfelt email I received from a Lovefraud reader who has just successfully achieved the final step in her resolute struggle to break free:
“Two years of tears and agony, stress and anxiety. Nevermore!”
As we all know, it takes a huge amount of guts and gritty determination first of all to escape and then to heal – and as I sat reading her words I whooped for joy and punched the air. YES!!! Because it means that one more person is free. One more person has shattered the chains that used to bind. One more person has broken out of the shackles of manipulation and madness – and I am pleased. In fact I am delighted.
Every time I hear stories – or receive emails – from people who have taken another step (large or small, size in this case certainly doesn’t matter for a change!) on the road to freedom I am filled with love and with gratitude. Even though I consider myself to be well and truly free, every new account of escape still boosts my own sense of liberty – and increases my determination to play my part in helping others to awaken from their nightmares.
My part this week, I believe, is to share a message of hope that this particular lady sent me in her email. She would like to reach out to everyone who, like her, has been through or is still in an abusive relationship – people just like all of us here on Lovefraud. “I think about the people out there” she wrote “and what they’re going through. Their anguish…” and she gave me permission to use her words although, of course, her identity and circumstances remain protected. This is what she said:
“Tell everyone that’s going down this path to stand up to the “Bully”.  It takes a lot of inner strength and even more prayer to have the courage to fight back.  Each time you do something you didn’t think you could you feel better about yourself and in turn it starts to restore your dignity.  Know, this is the healing process.”
Powerful words, don’t you think?
Fighting back and standing up to the bully, in my opinion, is such an important part of the process. Yes, as this lady says, it takes a lot of inner strength to fight back. Nobody said it would be easy – but boy is it worth it! We can be quiet in our fight or we can be noisy. Make huge gestures or tiny movements. Create a sudden explosion or a continuous trickle of barely perceptible flashes… it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, what we do hardly matters in the grand scheme of things. It’s how we feel about what we do that makes the difference – and in feeling that we’re standing up against the bully well, guess what? It will naturally make our actions stronger.
Dolly Parton
Just last week I was lucky enough to see Dolly Parton performing her show while I was here in London. I went along with a few friends, not really knowing what to expect. But wow – I was blown away! That little lady is a dynamo of energy and talent – and she’s got some pretty powerful stories to tell as well. During the show she spoke a lot about her childhood. The poverty, the number of children, the lack of modern ‘luxuries’ like running water or electricity. But she spoke even more about the love they shared as a family – and how that love, and her happy memories, have driven her forward and kept her company throughout the good and bad times.
One particular story that touched me, was when she explained the background to one of her favourite songs. “Coat Of Many Colors” tells of how one particularly cold winter, Dolly’s mother made her a coat from small bits of rags and old bits of materials. She freely admits it was an odd looking garment, but in Dolly’s mind it was going to bring her good luck and happiness, just like the biblical story of Joseph and his multicoloured coat.
But when she got to school, the other children teased her and taunted her. They called her names and laughed because she was so poor. Yes, they tried to bully her – but they didn’t succeed.
Why not? Because Dolly refused to take any notice of their mocking ways. She held on to her belief that the coat was something special, and that it had been given to her with love from her mother. In fact, she said, she couldn’t understand how the other children were so blind! Why couldn’t they see that she was rich beyond any of their wildest dreams, because she was rich beyond anything money could buy – she had love.
Free Your Mind
This, I believe, is what standing up to the bully – or the sociopath – is all about. It’s about holding tight to what you believe – or what you choose to believe is true, no matter how someone else is attempting to torment or frighten us. Because we can always choose freedom in our minds.
I remember hearing a story many years ago about survivors from the prison camps. Even those who had been locked away in solitary confinement would say that in their minds they were free. In their imagination they could take themselves travelling to the far off corners of the world. They could be with the people they loved and dream about living any life they cared to choose. This was how they stood up to the people who were trying to break them. This was how they kept their sanity and how they eventually became physically free as well.
On that note, there’s one more story I’d like to share with you. It involves some of my dearest friends, who have three sons – one slightly younger than my son, and the other two slightly older. The four boys, as you can imagine, get on famously together and we are all more like family than friends. One particular evening last year, when I was still facing numerous emotional and financial challenges, the conversation turned to the subject of bullying. It seemed each of the boys, my son included, had all experienced intimidation at some point in their lives. Contrasting experiences, different levels, and of varying durations, none the less each of them knew and understood the sense of shame and fear associated with bullying. They, along with the adults, were sharing their views on how best to combat these people and situations.
The conversations, as you can imagine, became somewhat boisterous and heated. Voices were getting louder, and opinions stronger, as we all put our energy in to debating the entire issue from varying viewpoints.
And then a calm, measured and relatively quiet voice silenced the table. It came from Tom, the eldest of the three brothers – at this time 19 years old.
“You can’t actually be bullied unless you feel it” he said, picking at the tomatoes from his third bruschetta. We all shut up and turned to look at him. Encouraged to explain further he continued
“Bullying’s not a THING. It’s a reaction you choose. It’s nothing to do with what’s happening, it’s to do with how you choose to feel about it”
And that was the light bulb moment. Firstly, Tom had explained so succinctly exactly where, in my opinion, any focus for combating bullying needs to be placed. Secondly, and on a personal level, he’d just reminded me that I was totally in charge of how I choose to react to whatever is, was and will be happening around me. Not a new lesson, but certainly one that needed re-stating. And I suddenly felt both humbled and inspired at the same time.
Wisdom And Inspiration
I listened intently as Tom continued to share his opinions, his wisdom and calm approach seeming to include everyone’s point of view whilst at the same time presenting some workable and well-reasoned alternative solutions to the problem. We may not have solved the whole topic that night, but we certainly left the table feeling more able to deal with the issue. For me, I also came away with a personal commitment to remain calmly focused on where I was heading – no matter what difficulties I may face along the way.
As an aside, I also discovered during the course of the conversation that this incredibly wise, centred and modest young man had been awarded a prize last year for being the person who had given the most contribution to his school. That’s quite some achievement by anyone’s standards, and yet Tom had kept it very quiet. I hope, like me, that you’ll agree he’s a very special person. And for me, he’s one of the biggest inspirations in my life, and he never ceases to amaze me. Because there’s one small thing that I’ve omitted to explain about Tom.
And that is that he was born with a medical condition known as SMA – Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He has never been able to walk, and he needs 24-hour care because he is totally reliant on others. Without them he is unable to do even the simplest of things that you and I take for granted – wash, get dressed, cut up his food. Even turning over in bed is impossible for him to do on his own. He has had countless operations over the years, including one to fuse his spine and insert metal rods either side to prevent the crushing of his internal organs, because he cannot hold himself straight. But he never lets things faze him.
I didn’t explain Tom’s condition earlier, because to Tom, his family and his friends, it doesn’t count. He is just like everyone else, and is treated in exactly the same way. This young man is living with a crippling disability, but he’s discovered a way to take everything in his stride. He grasps life with more energy and determination than I see in most people, and he’s making an absolute success of his life – as well as inspiring others along the way – myself included! And because of that, people see past the large, clunky motorised wheelchair that carries him everywhere – it becomes invisible.
This point was made particularly clear just a couple of years earlier. We had arranged a massive Easter treasure hunt around our French village, with a whole gang of people rushing around chasing clues and finding prizes. One of the younger members, a 6-year-old boy, had taken a particular shine to Tom, and remained stuck by his side for most of the day. He was still filled with excitement when explaining the day to other members of his family. When asked to point him out in the photographs from the day, he replied “Oh, he’s the one with the big smile. He’s got darker hair than the others – can you see him?”
Tom, along with other motivational people and inspirational stories are all part of my internal ‘army’ of soldiers. They may not be with me in person, but the memories of people who have inspired me – whether or not I know them or have even met them – together with the uplifting situations I have witnessed first hand, all band together and stand strong with me whenever someone tries to threaten me. I hope that my account can in some way help you to find, acknowledge and recruit more ‘soldiers’ of your own.
With love and blessings to all – and particular thanks to the lady who inspired this post. Thank you for your email – you know who you are, you’re now in my ‘army’ and I salute you!


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Lovefraud: Lessons From The Men I've Loved


Thank you very much for all the comments and emails I have received since my last post. I am so glad that I’m able to make a difference, and I’m deeply honoured to be part of this amazing site. This week’s writing has been prompted by something in my personal life – I hope you like it.
Happy Birthday
It’s just turned midnight on my son’s sixteenth birthday as I sit down to write this week’s article. I am so very proud of him, and am constantly amazed at the depth of wisdom, strength and kindness in such a young man. When I look back at the day just two and a half years earlier when I had to sit him down and tell him the truth about the man who had been his step father since just before his third birthday, I am overwhelmed by how well he’s come through the past two and a half years.
It was the morning after the evening I discovered the email trail that led me to understanding my husband’s deceit and betrayals, and it broke my heart to see my son break down with the shock of the news. Never again do I want to witness so much pain and anguish on the face of someone I love with all my heart and all my soul.
That morning I knew I was going to break his heart – but I had to tell him the truth. He was thirteen years old at the time, and we sat down together at the table outside my kitchen. I had made him some toast for breakfast, and waited until he’d finished before bracing myself for the inevitable. It took every ounce of strength to hold myself together and tell him that my ex was not the person we had both believed him to be, and that he would not be coming home ever again. I explained that my son had played no part in my ex’s bad behaviour, that we had all been duped, and that there was nothing to feel guilty about. I reassured him that we would come through this together, that we had plenty of people who love us, and that although it would be tough, I would be there for him every step of the way.
His little face crumpled in front of my eyes, and I remembered my own pain when my mother had to tell me that my daddy had died. It was heartbreaking, and I would have done everything within my power to take the hurt away – but of course I couldn’t. So I let him cry, and I held him tight. I gave him the headlines about the information I had discovered and why, therefore, I would never let that man back in to our lives.  I told that when people do bad things, it’s not our fault, but it is our choice and responsibility to bolt the door and never let them hurt us again. I also invited him to ask me any questions about what I was telling him – at the same time letting him know he didn’t have to ask anything if he didn’t want to. It came as no surprise that he wanted to know everything, so I listened to his probing questions. How had I found out? How long had it been going on? What would it mean to us? How were we going to live? I didn’t have answers to everything, telling him quite honestly whenever that was the case.
Anger Can Be Healthy
After what seemed like hours (it was probably only a few minutes) his sobbing stopped and he sat up straight.“I’m angry now” he announced “I want to smash something – something of his”
I offered clothes to cut up or burn, but he was insistent that smashing was what he wanted to achieve. So we went up to my bedroom with an empty bucket and collected all his bottles of aftershave. There were tons, and we filled the bucket. We then marched down to the bottom of the garden and in to the field, where there was a huge stone wall. Putting the bucket by our feet, I encouraged my son to use all the force of his anger and throw the bottles against the wall – I also advised him to shout and scream, and gave him permission to use whatever swear words he wanted as well. He took the first bottle, and hurled it at the wall. It smashed in to tiny pieces and the air filled with the smell of perfume. He shouted and jumped, kicking his feet and punching his fists in the air, his face purple with anger. And I decided to join him. Asking if I could help, we then spent the next few minutes shouting, screaming, swearing and smashing glass bottles against the wall. Boy it felt good!
After the last bottle had been thrown, we stood there in silence, holding on to each other in an emotional embrace.
“I’m so proud of you” I said “And I promise I will never let anyone hurt you like this again. I am so sorry”
“You have nothing to be sorry about, Mum” he replied, squeezing me tighter “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know”
The tears slid down my cheeks and the sobs returned. I had no idea what the future held, what we were going to do or how on earth we were going to get through this. But I knew I would do everything within my power to keep my son safe, to stick by him and to love him even more than I ever had before.
“Anyway” I said, smiling through my tears “At least the village is going to smell pretty good for the next few hours!” He smiled back and we walked arm in arm back towards the house together, united in our misery and determination to pull through.
Moving On
As I said, that was two and a half years ago. I cannot say that I have been able to protect my son from every hurt since then. Neither can I say that I have been a perfect mother to him. There are times when I expect too much of him and other times when I don’t give him enough leeway to find things out for himself. But I can say that we have both nurtured the bond that was created that morning. Our friendship has grown and, while I have been the adult through all this, I know that if it hadn’t have been for my son, I may well not have made it. So, thank you Dylan for being my son and for growing in to the most amazing human being I know. I love you with all my heart and soul, and am proud to be your mum. Happy Birthday.
I have learned so much from my son since the day he was born – and I continue to learn from him as he gets older. A few months ago I was considering this subject on one of my blog posts, so I thought I’d adapt it and continue this article by explaining some of the lessons I’ve learned from the men I’ve loved.
Blog Post From November 2010
Well here it is – and here I am. More learns, more growth, more emotions and more questions – some helpful, others less so. Some warming, others painful. All, nonetheless, useful lessons resulting in unquestionable personal growth. So, in the shower a couple of days ago, I decided to think about all the lessons I’ve learned from the men I’ve loved – whether as friends, family or lovers – because I’m realising that some of my deepest learns have resulted from some sort of relationship with the opposite sex.
Let’s start with the earliest male influence in my life – that of my father. Whenever I was around my Daddy I felt totally loved and adored. And I, in turn loved him back completely and utterly. He always told me that anything is possible, and through him I believed in magic. After all, wasn’t he the person who could build a plane out of bits of wood, paper, glue and paint, and make it fly… with a real engine? He taught me how to play and how to fight as well “you must always know how to stand up for yourself” he’d say to me. He was also the only person who could cure the excruciating night cramps in my legs. We would walk together, laugh together and sometimes cry together – and I knew he’d always be my world. So when he died so suddenly when I was just four years old I learned some profound lessons. Some of which have been helpful, others not so – all of which have certainly had an influence on the way my life has unfolded since then.
The helpful lessons include these specific ones I still hold dear, which are that anything is possible, there is such a thing as magic, and that dreams really do come true. These remain some of my guiding values and, rightly or wrongly, have keep me going through many of the darkest periods of my life.
I’m Not Good Enough
One of the not so helpful and equally influential lessons – a subconscious one I’m still unraveling – was the belief that I wasn’t good enough for him. That quite clearly he didn’t love me enough, because if he did, well then surely he would never have left me? I learned what it means to feel abandoned, afraid and alone; and as a consequence I learned to keep my distance from anyone who might start to mean too much to me. I also learned to keep myself locked away so that I could never be hurt like that again.
My less than positive lessons were compounded twelve years later by the treatment received from my guardian. It was while I was under his roof that I learned it was safer to please than to speak out – better to fit in, to be a good girl, to do everything I possibly could to make my guardians’ lives easier and make myself invisible. I believed that if I could do that successfully, then perhaps I would be able to maintain the unstable home he and his wife were providing for both me and my little sister after the death of our mother. I’d seen the way he treated his wife. I’d witnessed his cold attitude towards his small children, together with the endless jibes and gossip about his friends and family behind their backs. I understood the threatening uncertainty of our predicament and knew I had to keep both of us safe and away from his radar.
But in the end my best wasn’t good enough and I couldn’t save the situation. I couldn’t win his heart and we were both thrown out despite my best efforts to placate. And so another lesson was driven home – that once again I hadn’t been ‘good enough’.  This time, though, I’d not only let myself down, I’d let my little sister down as well because I’d failed to keep her safe. And on top of that I must surely be a very bad person to deserve this treatment. Again, a deeply engrained lesson that I now believe has been behind some of my less than healthy life choices since then.
Toughening Up
Fending for myself at a relatively early age made me toughen up in a way that many of my female friends had yet to discover. So rather than having close girlfriends, I tended to have a collection of close male friends. I found them straightforward, straight talking, and fun to be with. I found I could be myself with them, and felt chuffed when they called me ‘an honorary bloke’. I learned a great deal about their approach to life, and being in their company strengthened the male side in me – something, I’m sure, that has encouraged me to be so driven in business. So determined to carve my own path and make a name for myself. These, I believe, were all good lessons. Perhaps, though, there was a fall-out as well. Perhaps I neglected my feminine side as a result. The instinctive, nurturing side of my nature that could have kept my emotions more open.
Oh, sure I could be nurturing to others – but not to myself. You see, I’d learned from the men in my life to stay strong – an approach that served me well at the time. If I hadn’t been strong during my teens and twenties, then surely I would have broken down in to tiny pieces. So I learned how to become driven and focused. To believe that I was invincible so that I could deal with any situation. I would be the first to stand up against any injustice that had been suffered by another. I would put my neck on the line time and time again for those I believed had been wronged or misjudged. Because I knew I was strong enough to handle anything – look at what I’d already survived? On top of that, for much of my life I believed that I had a point to prove – that if I kept myself together and could prove that I was a good and worthwhile girl, well then perhaps, just perhaps, maybe one day I would no longer be a bad person and might be loved for just being me.
The change happened with the birth of my son when I was 30 years old. All of a sudden I started to consider that perhaps I was already good enough – in fact, perhaps I always had been. Through him I learned the meaning of unconditional love. I was enchanted and intoxicated by the exquisite and often overwhelming feelings of gratitude and love I felt for this small defenseless person who utterly depended on me – and who absolutely trusted me to provide whatever he needed. And through my love for him, I finally realized for sure that my father would never have left me on purpose. I also began to understand that I had been holding on to a series of unhelpful subconscious beliefs that had shaped my life in to some less than positive twists and turns. So I embarked on my quest to consciously re-shape my life – a journey that is still continuing. I became a dedicated student of self-development and self-discovery in a bid to help me unravel the harmful lessons I’d absorbed through my earlier life.
The Sociopath
Paradoxically, I was the strongest I’d ever been – emotionally, spiritually and physically – when I met the sociopath nearly three years later. At the top of my personal game, it never occurred to me that he was anything other than who he professed to be. Through my relationship with him I learned about commitment, contentment and the fulfillment of my life’s dream – to be accepted and adored for who I was.
Despite the fact that since then I’ve discovered the grisly truth about him, those experiences are still mine to keep. Despite the fact that my feelings were never reciprocated, it doesn’t matter a jot. I’m proud and grateful for those feelings. Because I felt them myself… honestly, willingly and with all of me. And I loved those feelings. And through what’s happened since I discovered the truth, I have learned for certain that I am a good person. That I am enough. Because even though I could have crumbled as a result of his betrayals, instead I’ve been able to draw on my strength and positive determination and I’ve pulled myself and Dylan through a time that can only be described as a living hell. On top of that I’ve grown further in the process – and am continuing to grow on a daily basis! So, as I’ve said before, I’m thankful for the deeply cleansing qualities of the whole ten-plus years the sociopath was an influence on my experiences. How on earth could I choose to feel anything else but gratitude?
Now For Something Else
And now… now… I have a sneaking feeling I may have found a new teacher to take over from all the male influences in my life. Someone who has been there all the time, but who has been waiting in the wings. Or, put another way, perhaps someone who I’d refused to acknowledge. This person, though, is someone who will never leave me – someone who has never left me. Someone who cannot let me down, and who understands me completely. Someone who is absolutely with me, on my side, and will do everything within their power to make sure I live my life to the full, and fulfill or exceed all of my dreams.
So who is this person? Well, it may come as no surprise to learn that this person is me. Yes, little old me – Mel Carnegie. Here it is, and here I am. And I’m now very happy to announce to anyone who cares to listen, that I’m in once again in a committed and deeply loving relationship. But this time, it’s with myself. And right now, that’s the most important relationship in the world.
Thank you for reading and I hope this has been helpful.
With love and blessings to all.