Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner and John Sondericker
Song: Memphis Underground by Herbie Mann
Radio Story: The Monster and the Man by Larry Talbot
Song: I Shall Be Released by Jack Johnson
Art by Antoine Stevens
Such a refreshing point of view in this story! Sadly, this is very relate-able to me… having been the asshole boyfriend on many an occasion. Like.. the fears and insecurities come out as overbearing and awful and its hard to take a step back and see yourself being out of control and ridiculous in the moment. god. This story took balls.. figuratively and literally.. in order to fulfill the horrible monster-like man half of these types of stories.
Real humility expressed. Very moving, glad you all put this out there.
Hi- what was the music playing in the background when he was talking about their first date? I recognize it from somewhere and can’t put my finger on it. Thanks so much.
That’s Agnes Obel. We discovered her work when we created the remarkable episode called “The Riverside” with a story by Jan Scott Frazier. If you’ve never heard that one, it’s one of the all-time classics. You probably recognize “September Song” by Agnes Obel because it was also recently used in the HBO series Big Little Lies.
Wow. I will always maintain that the best stories are often the ones we least want to tell. Thank you, Larry (wolfman?) for sharing the pain, heartbreak, and change in direction that your life has taken. It was a difficult story to hear at points, but man was it powerful. Few people prone to rage get to have the gift of self-awareness.
Without it, there is no hope for redemption. May you continue down the lighted path. Also, great job editing, Jeff! I continue to be impressed by Risk’s content and its staff.
It’s stories like these that really make me love and respect this show. I thinkin hearing stories like these are so important. We’ve all heard stories from victims of abuse, which is also important, but this show really strives to find humanity from all perspectives. It never says away from sharing potentially uncomfortable or troubling stories and it does so with compassion from all points of view. It’s aware and shares stories like these responsibly by not forgiving the actions but humanizing the actor. Kudos again Risk. Please keep doing what you do.
Think* shys* autocorrect dammit
Did anyone else feel upset and possibly disturbed by the way the narrator recalled the specific words he used to abuse his wife? He chose to put a certain emphasis / inflection on those words that sent chills through me. I would go as far as to say his choice to include those words, uttered in his story with such vitriol, that made this story hard for me to listen to. It almost sounded to me like he’s still just suppressing violent feelings towards this woman….Or maybe I’m just particularly sensitive? Curious what other people think.
JT, this is Melanie Hamlett. Just wanted to chime in on this. I totally get what you are saying and why you feel that way. I did too. I listened to this story six times during its creation and it never got any easier. I originally believed the words and the way they were said should be toned way down. There were many discussions about this very topic! But I eventually came around and saw why Kevin thought it was important it be told this way. When we think of abuse, we usually think of bruises. Without the physical violence, people don’t often take abuse seriously. Or understand it. So the creative choice to make the words feel like punches (and thus make verbal abuse feel very real) was done intentionally. It sent chills down my spine EVERY single time I listened to it. But that was the point. To make us feel it. This is why Kevin put such a heavy trigger warning up top. He knew how it made me feel when i heard it and was concerned others might have as hard of a time with those verbal punches. Especially anyone who’s been abused. Risk doesn’t like to tell stories form a distance like other storytelling platforms, which is what makes it so unique. It wants us to be right there, in the moment, as uncomfortable as that is. So ultimately I came around and saw the need for those stinging words. I’m not sure if this makes you feel any better, but I wanted you to know we all thought about this a lot and totally get why you reacted this way. Also, “Larry” (I can’t believe that’s the name they went with lol) is a life long theater actor. So he was able to put himself in the moment and embody his old self in a more convincing way than the typical person would be able to.
I can add my own 2 cents to what Melanie was saying about JT’s comment. In the first draft of a story, it’s typical for a storyteller to maintain a safe distance from the emotion of the moments they are describing by phrasing and vocalizing things in a general overview sort of way. I call it, the Wikipedia essay style. So, for example, the first time I heard this story, Larry covered the fight sequence something like this: “I used harsh words and raised my voice.” I thought, “That’s it?” I hadn’t experienced the danger. And so I coached Larry to do what I coach every single RISK! storyteller to do. I always say, “Take us there.” I poke at storytellers, just like therapists do, to re-experience the emotion of the moment they’re describing by tapping into the actual sounds they heard, the literal words that came out of mouths, the sensations they felt in their bodies, and so on. “Take us there,” means don’t just tell us the basic gist of what happened. It means “show us” the moment happening with the dramatic energy it contained. If the storyteller feels the moment again, we the listeners will feel it too. So when Larry came back with a version where I could hear the rage, I finally got it. I thought, “Okay yes, what he is describing was abuse on a scale that merits an entire hour-long episode to unpack. I feel how dangerous this all was now.”
I totally get that most storytelling shows encourage people to make this sort of thing easier to swallow. But I think a tremendous amount of cathartic power comes from showing emotional material as emotional as it really was when it was happening. People were uncomfortable with the way the young lady re-created what she was screaming as she was stabbing her mother in the story Transcendent on “The Best of RISK! #4.” And people were uncomfortable with the way the young woman re-created the way she begged her mother in tears for understanding about her having been molested as a kid in the episode called “Nancy Sullivan.” People were uncomfortable with the desperation in the voice of the young man who re-created his conversations with God during his suicide attempt in the episode called “Shock.” And with the way Mollena Williams recreated the sadistic use of racial slurs by her BDSM race play partner in the story “Slave.” But I always say that it only makes sense that hearing those emotions can be jarring for some people. Because they themselves found those life experiences extremely jarring. That’s what I was warning listeners about in the first hosting segment of this episode. And what Melanie had told me she was especially concerned about.
Listening to this man wallow in his own self pity for an entire hour was almost too enraging to handle. The thought of all the kudos this abuser will undoubtedly receive for his “courage” to speak out about his abusive tendencies disturbs me. Despite the storyteller’s relentless insistence that he, ‘owns his actions and takes full responsibility for the pain he caused,’ the tale came off as an hour-long excuse. Being Bi-polar does not make one an abuser. Moving around as child does not make one an abuser. Having divorced parents does not make one an abuser. Making the decision to get drunk and verbally assault your significant other makes you an abuser. He spent nine years controlling another human through fear, congratulations. As a women who managed to escape an abusive relationship, I cannot bear to think of that man being given a platform to to relieve himself of guilt. I understand the importance of perspective, though I find it hard to listen to stories spinning sympathy for abusive people. Everyone has a back story. There are many reasons people commit crimes, hurt or abuse another person. How simple is it to for an abuser tell us about his or her childhood or depression and draw those lines as excuses for their actions. I don’t buy it, what about the power he gained screaming at his wife, using jealousy to control her actions, using his anger to block out the conversations he didn’t want to have. Ugh, I can’t with men.
I can understand how the story might feel that way for some people, Carla. Especially those who have been in a position like you have been. That’s one of the reasons I urged people to listen to the UNBREAKABLE episode for a different perspective. In the case of this particular story, I went with my gut. And my gut told me that “Larry” really did feel that sharing his story might help other people to see that this sort of behavior can be stopped.
After a hesitation, I decided to share my opinion on what I just listened to. It is possible that my opinion might provoke an unwarranted reaction of many listeners to the show, but this is certainly not my intention, nor my desire. I just want to express a disappointment.
The beginning of the Wolfman’s story (I suspect the narrator for shielding his real name with a semantically charged artistic nom de guerre, using the name of an artist who played the wolfman long ago, so I will refer to him as the Wolfman) was promising and catchy. As the story went on, however, I began to wonder how much of it is ‘the real thing’ and how much is the unnecessary dramatization (read ‘over-dramatization’). The self-loathing “I am that monster” itself is suspicious for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the pathology of evil-doing requires a healthy dose self-loving and egocentrism, which the narrator obviously doesn’t express, and I suspect he doesn’t have. In that case, it would be much fairer to the listeners to state that “I am that HALF monster”, the one that has repented, and the one that feels remorse, etc. etc.
Next, listening to the story itself, I fail to grasp the entirety of his monstrosity. First, it must have not come out all of the sudden. Where was his gf/wife during all that time? She is portrayed as an involuntary bi-stander in his monstrous abusing, but I wonder how much that is true. She had a part into all this–a big one, too–but where is the recognition of it? Well, the simple answer is that were the Wolfman given us *her* part of the story, his own story would not sound so ‘self-flagellating’ anymore, would it? But he wants us to give him our kudos and recognition, almost admiration that he has the strength to come out and face his inner Frankenstein.
This was, indeed, the main source of my disappointment with the story and the narrator (and, yes, with you guys – Kevin, Melanie, etc.) – forcing an overdramatized version of a story, which white thread coterie is plainly visible all over, as an honest pursuit of the truth. RISK, in my mind, was a program, where one not just takes the risk of exposing oneself to the public, but also to do so while remaining as truthful as possible to the unfiltered and rough experience of the story. I recognize that the majority of the stories need some basic polishing, and arrangement. But, this one was close to being concocted all together. Not to mention the pathetical musical arrangement in the background intended to sway our emotions, as we were hearing from this actor, his dramatization of a story that could have been as true as a speech from Hamlet.
And, for that reason it sounded very false. Sorry, no offense intended.
Finally, I listened to sections of the story again, trying to figure out the actual ‘abuse’ part. However, the more I listened to it, the more I saw an abused man more than an abuser. One, suffering from loneliness, insecurity, depression, etc., who has been left out in the cold. His beautiful wife, who by then is quite estranged from him, allows a stranger to flirt with her for way too long in front of her husband. Is that not a form of abuse? She clearly knew exactly what she was doing and she knew how to push the Wolfman’s buttons to drive him into a rage. And she did it. His rage seems to be an expression of his reaction to her abuse, not so much an abuse itself. Him, yelling at her offenses in this situation, is a manifestation of powerlessness and desperation.
I don’t judge him or her. In a relationship (when it lasts for so long as it did, mind you), there are always two sides. I judge the story and the editor, however. The story sounds to me as real as the name of the narrator itself (a famous actor, playing a monster).
At the end we are left with a dilemma to applaud the Wolfman, to condemn him, or to pity him. His story asks us to do the former, while it provokes some (see Carla above) to do the latter; the narrator himself opts for the third option (in his case, a self-pity). I opt for none of the options, as I hardly see the abuse in this case as a one-directional, or the repentance as sincere. And, I hate to pity, let alone to chime into self-pitying over-dramatizations.
Not your brightest story, RISK!
P.S. I commented before in this forum using this nom de plume so I keep it now just for the sake of consistency.
I agree with you, Carla. The sniffling was unbearable.
Carla you have expressed my feelings on this perfectly. I could not agree more as a survivor the thought of my abuser taking to a platform like this to self flagellate and come up with a list of excuses for what he chose to do makes me incredibly angry. Domestic abusers are able to control themselves at work, around friends, hear how many wonderful friends were at their wedding but choose their partner as the outlet. That’s not pathological.
@Oracle of Delphi
Wait what? Did you guys catch what Oracle wrote?
IN REALITY THE WIFE IS THE ABUSER.
Hahaha it was so easy.
The wolfman is just a poor misunderstood soul.
No no no Oracle it doesn’t work that way.
Everyone is responsible for one’s own action.
The narrator is responsible for his own feelings and having himself in check.
The wife is NOT responsible for the actions of her husband.
She can not read minds.
The situations might have looked completely harmless from her perspective.
If he gets angry about a situation, they can talk.
Snapping into an almost uncontrollable rage and calling her a cunt is way out of bounds.
Especially considering that he is almost 99% certain bigger and stronger than her. Which makes the situation really scary for her. Even his therapist was frightened by him.
Thank you, Carla and Lorelei, for explaining why this story is so distasteful to survivors of abuse. I’d like to share my own thoughts as a domestic abuse survivor.
Abuse is not the result of emotional problems, mental illness, childhood stress, etc. etc. Abuse stems from an attitude of entitlement. It is about taking control, not losing control. And every single fucking abuser out there either denies the abuse, blames the victim for it, or blame life circumstances (mental illness, drinking, parents, blah blah blah).
Like so many abusers, this storyteller hasn’t taken full responsibility for what he did. And his motivation to tell his story — that he listened to Melanie’s story and was touched by the compassion she felt for her abuser — made me sick to my stomach. Hers was a downright harrowing story and THAT was his takeaway? Fuck him. The fact that he feels as entitled to tell his story as a person who actually survived abuse is gross — and very telling.
Previous commenters say things like, ‘We’ve all heard victims tell their stories before’ – but really, we haven’t. Not really. On a societal level, survivors are silenced CONSTANTLY. And we hear from abusers of constantly. Think of the athletes who batter their wives and girlfriends, and continue their careers. The celebrities who continue making movies or reality shows after being overtly abuse ON CAMERA. Think of the government leaders who abuse entire populations of people (especially Trump). These abusers, usually men, have plenty of folks listening. It’s survivors who need a platform for telling their stories.
For the love of good, save the airtime for survivors and not attention-seeking, self-congratulatory abusers.
Risk is still my favourite show, but I am deeply disappointed by the decision to air this story.
P.S. @Oracle of Delphi – Quit it with the victim-blaming bullshit.
One more thing.
For those who still equate abuse with anger management problems or psychological issues read Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That (or visit http://lundybancroft.com/).
Abusers are highly skilled in their manipulations and very resistant to giving up the privileges they gain through abuse. Therapy rarely, if ever, brings about change – often, it allows abusers to strengthen their own victim narratives and find new ways to convince others that they’re merely reacting to their circumstances. They receive sympathy and aren’t made accountable.
The odds that this storyteller is a reformed abuser is highly unlikely as research shows almost none of them actually change their ways – even after therapy.
I suspect much was left out of this story… I lived in an abusive relationship for over 5 years and though much of what was expressed seems real and valid, I felt much of this was held back or whitewashed…. calling someone a cunt is not in my mind abusive like convincing someone of their worthlessness and assuring them that no one but the abuser could see their value as a human being… What are the “horrible things” you supposedly did to be a monster? Were you physical? …did you isolate her? …make her question her value as a human being? When my ex beat me or raped me he would say “you’re ok…I just manhandled you a little…”. I suspect if you describe her shutting down during an escalation of abuse, she had seen more than just being called a cunt… I’m not calling you out- just giving you food for thought…
A huge priority of ours at RISK! has always been to include as many stories from women as possible. Another huge priority has been to include the perspectives of survivors of abuse. In the past twelve months alone, RISK! has featured stories from women about abusive situations they survived such as Melanie Hamlett, Thandi Davis, Kate Caldwell, Sian Mason, Tania Tomilonus, Linda Bailey Walsh, Laura Wimbels, Amanda Seales, Suzanne Roussin, Anna Seregina and Robin Cloud.
Our greatest fear with this story was that survivors of abuse would feel shoved aside by it. Our greatest hope with this story was that people who are abusive might see a way to change. Early on, Melanie suggested that perhaps she should do the opening hosting for the episode, since she brought the story to us and gave “Larry” feedback along the way as he was prepping drafts. Melanie is not on staff at RISK!, but she’s a dear friend and has created lots of wonderful stories with us, especially “Unbreakable.” She was moved when “Larry” reached out to her after hearing that story of hers. She supported the idea of his taking a stab at sharing this, and gave him feedback along the way. We also decided that this was the one instance where perhaps the story should not be told to me, Kevin. I told “Larry” he should record each draft by telling it to a woman who could give him feedback, then just email me the recordings. In the end, I thought having Melanie host the episode might be too off-the-beaten-path and that it was enough for me to start the episode urging people to hear “Unbreakable” in conjunction with this one and letting people know that, all along, all of us, but especially Melanie, cared about how abuse survivors would feel about this. Maybe having Melanie open the episode with a few words would have helped.
I hear and respect the perspectives of people who are unhappy about the episode. At the same time, I do feel that there is value in the story being about how change is possible.
Thanks for responding, Kevin. I have no doubt that you and the RISK! team had good intentions. It’s clear that you approached this thoughtfully.
And I know you folks have run lots of stories about domestic abuse (and other kinds of abuse). It’s one of the reasons I love the show so much.
There’s a lot of ignorance in our society about what abuse looks like and how it is perpetuated (which is why it is so prevalent). It’s a thorny subject. And I can’t expect you folks to become overnight experts in every single topic you run a story about.
But…I still had to weigh in on this one. It really didn’t sit well with me.
Thanks for explaining your motivation/process to those of us who took issue with the episode.
could not stand this story. rolled my eyes throughout and had to listen to it in two sessions a few days apart because it was very clear to me, as a survivor of abuse, that he didn’t *get* it and never will. blugh. let’s not hear more of that in the future, thanks.
I previously commented about this episode in comments 10, 12, and 20. Hopefully, I’m not getting repetitive about some stuff.
I kept the intro to this story in the podcast episode itself pretty short, but perhaps I should have told the full story of how this episode came to be. “Larry” reached out to Melanie after he heard her story, “Unbreakable.” He just wanted her to know that he had worked for years in therapy to break the cycle of abuse and that he wanted her to know he believed it could be done and he believed he was living proof. Not many abusive people do the hard work of therapy. It’s similar to how, about a century ago, the general consensus in society was that a person with a drinking problem was a lost cause. Thus, at that time, very few people with drinking problems believed they could do anything about it at all.
Melanie got to know “Larry.” She came to feel he was entirely sincere about his transformation. She urged him to share his story. He did not want to. He decided against it. He was afraid it could come off as de-emphasizing the importance of hearing victims’ points of view; that people might think he was trying to justify or excuse his past sins; that it might seem he was fishing for a pat on the back even though he would be telling the story anonymously; and that re-creating the sound of the abuse might remind victims too much of their past trauma. Melanie kept urging him to share the story anyway. The feeling was, yeah, a lot of those concerns about how the story might come off might just be unavoidable because this is a story about truly horrible behavior. But the overall message that the cycle can be broken is too important to stay quiet about it. So “Larry” was finally convinced to give it a try. When the two of them finally came to me, we talked about all those concerns. I more or less said, “As long as you try to be as open and honest as you possibly can be about your real life experience and your actual thoughts and feelings about what you really lived through, that’s the best you can do. Let’s dig into the mess.” I urged him to run first drafts by Melanie and to do the recording sessions with another woman (rather than with me) who he trusted would give him honest feedback as well.
When the first draft of the story came my way, I could see that what Melanie and “Larry” were hoping to communicate WAS there in the story. The idea that someone guilty of abuse might not MERELY be a monster and that, in some cases, real change for the better is possible is, I feel, emotionally and sincerely expressed in the story.
Many victims of abuse and even some who admit to having been abusive before have reached out to me privately to say the story was important for them to hear. But in public, there’s more of a pile-on of negative reactions. In this comment thread here, people have suggested that surely “Larry” is lying by omitting that he also physically abused his wife and kept her from her friends and family, that surely “Larry” is preemptively covering up for the fact that he will soon be abusing people again, and that, surely “Larry” is lying about caring about understanding the issues he’s describing. I can’t really respond to interpretations that show that much distrust for the story at face value. We’re glad that, even if this story really rubs some people the wrong way, most people still seem to trust that we’re always trying to include stories that have conscience and compassion in them.
There’s a slightly more communal conversation about this story happening on the Facebook group “RISK! Podcast Fans Discussion Group.” I think maybe that format gives people more impetus for interacting with a back and forth exchange of ideas and feelings.
Those of you judging the speaker by stating that you ‘know’ he is going to behave a certain way or that he didn’t mean what he said, I ask you why you listen to Risk in the first place? If we are going to pretend like we are able to judge others whole heartedly regardless then whats the point of listening to their stories and hearing their words? Saying he is not able to change, that he isn’t ‘truly’ rehabilitated? If that is the case then what is the hope for our future? What do we want from those who have recognized they have done something wrong? The scope always changes, and the history is never the same, but we should be weary of saying some are incurable. Especially those vulnerable enough to tell their stories.
No, Oracle of Delphi, it is not abuse when you “let” a stranger flirt with you for “too long”. I don’t know what your life experience is, but when a stranger flirts with a woman, we are always told we react too quickly, or not quickly enough. If we let it go on for too long, then we are accused of being a “tease,” but if we react too soon, we are “overreacting” and “making assumptions” about the person’s intentions when they were “just being friendly.” I’ve been called nasty names because I ignored men who tried to talk to me. I’ve had a man scream at me, “I’M NOT A RAPIST!” because I walked away from him. There really is no right way to respond to this.
Listening to this story and Melanie’s reaction, and to the stories Melanie has told on risk, my belief in one central truth about human existence is confirmed: most human-caused misery could be eradicated if people would simply get over themselves.
I just listened to this episode. I have been in an abusive relationship. I have also been the abuser in relationships. If you want to end abuse, you can’t just treat the person who has been abused. If we learn how treat the abuser, that abuser won’t take their abusive tenancies into another relationship. Attacking someone for being an abuser is just going to drive them back into an abusive mindset. Punishing and judging an abuser will not help anyone. We are here on earth together, let’s offer each other some genuine help. Larry, thank you for sharing your story. I am glad you have achieved enough self awareness to improve your mental health. Keep going to therapy. Keep being honest with yourself and keep on getting better. I also have bipolar disorder. It’s no fun to run the mental health gauntlet. But if you keep going; you will find the right meds, therapist and psychiatrist. It is a long and difficult processes but you can keep that monster under control.
I was in an abusive relationship. I listened to this episode seeking answers to the question, why do abusers abuse? I have been carrying around so much anger and hatred for my ex because he was abusive towards me. I don’t care how much it hurts to hear the answers to these questions. I want to know why. If I never get answers, I won’t learn and grow from my experiences. Every situation is different, but some of the themes are the same every time. Larry, thank you for providing some answers. I hope you maintain self awareness and treat others and yourself with kindness and respect.
Just thought I’d share my experiences, in responses to the folks chiming in that this story is a load of crap because abusers can’t possibly change, etc…and to thank Larry for sharing. I’m guessing that people who condemn people who demonstrate out-of-control behavior have never closely experienced mental illness, or ever suffered from it themselves.
I was the victim in an abusive relationship. My husband progressively began demonstrating symptoms of bipolar disorder, eventually including mania, grandiose behavior, and fits of rage. Larry’s description of his behavior was chilling- it was exactly like my husband. My husband was severely neglected as a child and in many ways was a boy trapped in a man’s body- he was fearful of emotions (which would prove to be the biggest obstacle in his getting help for his mental health), and lacked the general impulse control that comes with adult guidance- as simple as, “think before you speak.” I fully believe his lack of emotional development contributed largely to his issues and abusive patterns- he was very much, very visibly, at war with himself. The shame for things he had said and done only fueled the defensive, child-like anger that manifested in a much larger scale due to the emotions and responsibilities of adulthood.
I eventually left my husband after he refused to seek treatment, I’m guessing out of a combination of pride, shame, and fear. I applaud Larry’s courage and humility- admitting that you have done horrible things and having the guts to delve deep inside and figure out what the driving factors behind those behaviors were is commendable, and I will definitely say that there is a strong stigma associated with mental illness for men in particular that all too often contributes to situations like this. My husband terrified me, damaged my self-esteem, hurt me profoundly… but after years of therapy myself I do not think he is a bad person. Larry’s story gave me a sense of hope that maybe some day he’ll find his own courage to get help, and maybe eventually find peace and happiness.
Carla, Lorelei, Stephanie – I agree completely.
Listening to this as a man who has never experienced abuse, this story made me cringe several times, especially towards the end. It positively dripped with self-pity and sounded like an exercise in extricating oneself from responsibility.
This is not to deny the value of hearing the personal stories of those who have committed abuse, and I commend in particular Melanie’s confidence in having this shared and the intentions of the Risk team in putting it out there. With a few changes here and there, it could maybe have been executed a little better.
As it stands, though, this sounded like a man thoroughly distancing himself from his actions. Kind of insulting to people who have gone through traumas in their lives, to draw a simple and direct causal link between those and becoming an abuser, no other factors – thought it was also telling how the narrator chose repeatedly to refer to the ‘monster’ in third person.
Sorry, I really really wanted to like this episode, but to my ear it just came off so wrong, really jarring and honestly quite unpleasant for all the wrong reasons.
Nonetheless, my best wishes to Melanie and the narrator both – it’s not my place to diminish the value of this story for others, and I am very glad that it served its purpose for Melanie. I hope our storyteller continues on his journey and keeps working on himself, because to me this didn’t sound like someone who has fully come to terms with their actions. Very best of luck.
ps @Caitlin – well put!
I needed to hear this story, and it was very difficult to listen because I identified with the abuser. As I listened I kept trying to find excuses and reasons for why I am not like him…but he spoke to me. I now feel I should get help before I hurt more people. As a woman, it’s not my first reaction to think I can even be an abuser… but so much of this story rang true, and I can imagine that, like Larry and myself, there are many of us who do not even see the damage we are causing until we look into a mirror. I am sorry to read there are some victims of abuse who are upset with how this episode was portrayed… and perhaps it’s not perfect, but I wanted to say that this episode can be important for those of us who engage in toxic behavior to look back on ourselves and realize the damage we are causing. Thank you, Risk, for providing me a mirror.
Well, @cc, if my gf or wife flirts in front of me for too long, knowing well that this is a bridge of our trust or confidence, I will feel pretty shitty. Yeah, sure, this is not abuse… It is a “tease”. And, DJ Trump is a gentleman, who just happened to enjoy the aestetics of female beauty!
Did anyone managed to pass my comment about whether the abuse of the narrator has been going two ways, and ponder on the argument, which in my opinion is the more valid, about the actual sincerity of the story, and its commercialization moment?
I don’t know if anyone’s going to come back to this comment thread at any point, but I want to offer my own response just in case.
I know this story is real and true because I’ve lived it. All of it – the manipulation and psychological erosion, the occasional good times, the bipolar diagnosis and subsequent transformative power of the right medication, and the crushing loneliness that comes with recovery and learning how to be a whole, decent person.
I don’t expect anyone who’s been through the psychological trauma of this kind of abusive relationship to believe Larry, or me. I have the unbelievable good fortune of an ex and victim who is strong, compassionate, and endlessly optimistic, who has not only been willing to talk to me throughout the process of understanding myself and understanding how I went so wrong, but has insisted. She’s believed in me when I couldn’t, and trusted that I could heal when I still hadn’t figured out how. But that’s so far above and beyond – as Larry said, I don’t look for forgiveness. I have to live with what I’ve done. Her generosity stands only as a testament to her as a person, not to anything I’ve done to deserve it.
What I think is unbelievable to a lot of y’all is that this kind of abuse can exist in a blind spot, but unbelievable as it is, I don’t have anything to tell you other than that it’s the truth. My plot twist, the moment my world turned inside out, was looking back at some old chat logs between me and her, months after we’d finally split up. I had to read the text of an argument we’d had several times, because the sadistic, manipulative, slimy creature that I saw exposed there didn’t feel like me. It felt like some kind of alien force that had possessed me. I couldn’t see myself in the words… but there they were. Undeniable. And suddenly everything was recontextualized.
I never knew what I was. Maybe, subconsciously, I knew something was wrong. But I honestly thought I was trying to be the best boyfriend I could be. I was a feminist. I used nonviolent communication. I tried to have dialogues about why she was unhappy. But the moment I was triggered and got even a little defensive, something emerged, and my reality warped. I did and said anything, *anything* to stay on top. To win. To keep control of her so she couldn’t leave me. And it all made sense to me at the time. I did not see what I was doing.
When I finally figured it out, I felt… there’s no better word for it than how Larry described it: small. I felt like everything I thought I knew about my life had been erased and what was left of me was only this tiny, uncertain seed of a self that wanted to be good and wanted to be loved but no longer understood the world. I never wanted to be what I was, which I’m sure is part of what kept me so utterly blind to it. It’s been a slow, shaky recovery, and it’s still hard every day, two years after that relationship ended. I haven’t been in another one and I don’t know when or if I will be. I’ve started to have friendships again, but I don’t know how much to tell people and I feel like no one really knows me.
Some of you heard the parts about bipolar disorder and childhood trauma as excuses. I didn’t. I don’t think my similar experience excuses anything either. Coming to terms with it, though, has been a critical part of coming around. I lived for most of my life in complete denial that I was in crippling pain, in utter emotional chaos, and so I couldn’t engage with it, couldn’t master it. It controlled me because I refused to look at it. I was ashamed that I might be broken. I was broken. Admitting it was so, so hard, and still is hard. Being vulnerable when I was so hurt and so let down as a child is still terrifying. There’s a critical distinction between excuse and explanation, and that’s accountability. Responsibility. The empowerment and determination to change. You can’t have any of that if you don’t face the truth. You can’t fix a problem you won’t admit exists. And, too, there is a profound relief when you finally find the truth. Wrestling with how I could possibly have been the way I was was killing me, until I really understood. Understanding lifted a huge weight off me, but not in the sense that it excused me from my actions; the relief was in finding a way forward, in knowing that maybe there was something I could do, something that would really let me keep from ever going back to that dark place.
As regards the tears and the sniffling… maybe there was some self-pity there. I don’t know. I don’t think there was much. It did touch something in me, though: a deep, deep well of grief. I destroyed so much. I screwed the pooch. I corrupted and shattered the relationship I valued most in the world. So, yes, there are tears. There’s loss and loneliness like I’ve never felt. I don’t ask for your pity, but I can’t keep it in, either. I’m only human. I AM human. I’m capable of feeling this grief and still being glad that she got away from me. We contain multitudes.
Larry’s story is important because no one heals in a vacuum. No one gets better, no one becomes a better person, if they can’t connect to others. Nothing deadens a soul like loneliness, and just hearing “You’re not alone” may be the small spark of warmth that keeps someone who’s genuinely trying with every fiber of their being to learn and improve from falling into an abyss they can’t climb out of. There’s so much shame involved in realizing you’ve been a bad person. Shame will kill you, or drive you to desperation, and it’s only healed by learning to love and forgive yourself – which you can’t do in isolation.
One more note: Larry’s story is also just that, HIS story. I similarly share only my own story, not my ex and victim’s, because that’s her story. It’s not mine to tell.
If you believe abusers should accept that they can’t atone, if you think we should kill ourselves rather than trying to do better… that’s your prerogative. I can’t honestly blame you. But I think there’s still a place for me in the world, if I can find it. I think there’s good I can do. I think there are healthy relationships I might be able to have. And I hope that if I can find a way to tell my story, too, maybe I can reach someone else who’s been where I have been and help him find a way out. Maybe I can be the tiny spark that keeps him going so he heals and doesn’t hurt anyone else.
Thank you all for your perspectives, and thank you Larry and Melanie for seeing this through. I don’t know where else I’d ever have heard a story like this, and as much as I hate that it happened, I’m grateful that I did hear about it.
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