No one would ever love me as much as he did. At least, that’s what he told me. From day one, he made it very clear that my wellbeing and happiness was his first priority. On paper (and on Facebook), his love for me read like a romantic novel or a Twilight movie without the vampires. To the outside world, he appeared to be the most romantic, caring man on the planet.
Little did I know, he was slowly conditioning me to accept his controlling behavior.
As an independent, strong, emotionally intelligent person, I never thought I’d end up in an emotionally abusive relationship. But that’s exactly what happened. And here’s the kicker—while it was happening, I didn’t see any of it as controlling or abusive.
In my mind, we were simply a once-in-a-lifetime, passionate, devoted couple who couldn’t get enough of each other.
After I finally ended the three-year-relationship—and a judge granted a restraining order to help protect me—I dug deep to figure out how I didn’t see what my life and my relationship had become. And why I stayed with him long past first realizing something was not right.
Here’s what I discovered…
I didn’t expect the panic attack that came on yesterday.
It was supposed to be an easy doctor’s appointment, but I’m now realizing that when you’re a trauma/abuse survivor, it’s just not that simple.
The lesion on my eyelid isn’t all that bad even though it’s been there in some form for a bit. Three years to be exact. It doesn’t look like the horrendous photos you see when you google eyelid cancer. Still, I figured it was time to get it looked at by a dermatologist, again. And I even reckoned that she’d want to take it off.
As usual, Scott was right there by my side, thank goodness. We joked and laughed before the doc and her team came into the room to inspect my face. I thought I had everything under control and was feeling pretty calm.
When it came time for her suggest a biopsy would be the best course of action, I started sweating profusely. I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t understand why. I’ve had punch biopsies before with no issue. I was prepared for this, even. I knew she would say what she did and want to do it right then and there. Sure, the needle carrying the numbing solution stings a bit but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ve had two c-sections, a ripped illiotibial band, and broken bones, after all.
This was supposed to be an easy peasy 5-minute procedure. And it wasn’t the gynecologist office, which is where I normally have PTSD issues. Being sexually abused as kid will do that to you.
As we listened to the doc talk about what she wanted to do and what I would need to do post-biopsy, I started to feel dizzy and nauseated. Doc’s assistants thought I didn’t notice when they were placing items on the tray near my now slip-n-slide of a sweat-covered treatment chair. First, a needle. Then a scalpel. Gauze. Ointment. Other things I didn't recognize. I kept my focus on the doctor but saw everything happening around me.
Recently, I've been editing my book manuscript, making room for the latest full-circle events to be included. I'm so excited about this! But it also means I have to take parts out in order to make room. I'm thrilled to be able to remove several stories about what it was like to be in a relationship with a narcissistic sociopath, but I also wanted to make them available to read. Why? Well, because it's important for survivors, for their families, for anyone struggling to understand how anyone could go down the rabbit hole with an abusive person and still cling to them like a life raft.
It's called being groomed.
It's called wounded attachment.
It's called what every abuse survivor endures at some point.
It's the cycle of abuse.
Eventually, when you get out, you recognize that you spend only 25% of the time in a calm space. So out of 365 days, only 91 of them are calm. The rest of the days, you're being blamed or being abused. And 100% of the time you're walking on egg shells.
THE TIME HE BROKE INTO MY APARTMENT AND I LET HIM BACK INTO MY LIFE
(Time Period: Winter 2016. Two years into the three-year relationship after the umpteenth break-up where I shipped his things from my apartment. We were past the devaluation part of the cycle of abuse and were going back into the "good part" of the cycle.)
Over the phone, he told me he was in Los Angeles for a bit before heading my way for an event he was required to attend in Flagstaff.
According to him, had it not been for the event, he would have avoided the entire state of Arizona. He made it very clear that he loved me, and always would, but he didn’t want to see me. He insisted he’d get a hotel room while he was in town for the event.
I felt relieved that he wasn’t planning on staying with me, but I still had a few of his things, which made for a nice excuse to see him one last time. I didn’t want him even setting foot in my apartment complex because I feared more cops coming to the door. I couldn’t risk that. I pictured a scenario where I delivered his boxes to his hotel, and we were able to say goodbye.
For some reason, I felt I needed that closure because we were always splitting up during a fight, but in hindsight, I was desperate to see the side of him that I knew loved me. I couldn’t imagine my life without him after loving him so deeply and passionately. I’d never felt so much pain, like fire coursing through my veins.
I knew I needed to stand my ground and not cave into his wishes, whatever they may be. I’d finally realized I spent our entire relationship caving. I was done, or at least that’s what my mind said.
We avoided talking on the phone because that always led to a huge argument. Instead, we texted back and forth. He didn’t tell me exactly when he would be coming to town, but I knew when the event started. Much of what we’d do after a break up was think about the good times, and share those memories back and forth. It was simultaneously comforting and devastating. I drifted off to sleep looking at a photo of us we’d taken in the early days. For the first time in a while, my heart felt hope that maybe down the road, there was a chance for us. My intuition said otherwise, but I was now an expert at ignoring my inner voice.
I could see that it was still dark outside when my alarm went off the next morning. I made my way to the bedroom door that led to the balcony, and I peeked through the blinds to see puffy snowflakes slowly falling to the ground, illuminated by the street lamp. Sure enough, it had snowed about two feet overnight. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and flipped the light switch so I could start my morning knowing I’d need extra time to dig my car out from its wintery parking spot.
Just then, I heard my phone vibrate. It was Tony. I see your light is on.
My heart stopped. I sat motionless staring at the phone. Was this a joke? Wait . . . was he really here right now? He would have had to drive all night because the last message I got from him was from Los Angeles. I quickly went to Instagram, the place where he loved to post photos from his road warrior treks, and saw a photo of snow with a caption that said something about how long and hard the drive was from LA.
I held my breath and typed, Are you here?
I am. I drove all night thinking about you, and decided I had to see you.
Knowing intuitively this was one of those moments where I would normally cave, I decided to stand my ground. I’d never told him I didn’t want to see him. Ever. This time, I did it partly because I felt I should hold strong, and partly because I was scared to death the fighting would start again. I couldn’t risk being kicked out of the apartment complex or go through another domestic violence visit from the cops.
I called him. “Baby, I didn’t know you were on your way. Why didn’t you tell me? And I thought you didn’t want to see me and that you were getting a hotel? Of course, I want to see you, and was planning on trying to see you at your hotel, but I just . . . I just can’t let you stay here.”
Deafening silence filled the air before he finally uttered a word.
“I drove all this way in the dark through a fucking snow storm and now you won’t even let me in! True colors, Kiersten. True colors. I know everything I need to know now.”
“Baby, why didn’t you tell me you were coming, and that you actually did want to see me?” I asked. “Honestly, I’m so scared that we’ll fight again and get loud if you come up.”
“No, I don’t think it’s that,” he shot back. “That’s bullshit. Scott is there in your apartment, isn’t he?”
“Oh my God, no! He’s at his house like he always is. No one is here. I’m just in shock that you’re here, and I’m scared we’re going to fight. I’m so tired of fighting.”
Just then, it dawned on me that it didn’t sound like he was in his car. “Tony, where are you?”
“I’m down the hall from your apartment near the elevators.”
I immediately started sweating. I was counting on the fact that the apartment complex exterior door key that I shut off when I shipped his things was not going to work if he ever tried to get in without my knowledge. In rare moments of clarity, I did smart things like that. Also, after three of my intuitive friends all shared their out-of-nowhere visions of him clocking me in my nose and blood spewing everywhere, I finally started to acknowledge the fact that his rage could turn physical. I didn’t want to believe it, but he’d even told me about how he punched through a wall in anger one time. It was one of the key reasons I had the fob deactivated.
“I couldn’t get in the main door with the key fob,” he replied. “But the gate door was open slightly. Did you turn off my fob key?”
“No, no I didn’t,” I lied through my teeth fearing what would happen if he knew the truth. “There must have been a glitch. I’m coming to you.”
My plan to not cave was out the window, and now he was angry. I opened the door to my apartment and peered into the hallway. “Tony?”
I could hear the rustling of bags down the hall so I started walking in that direction. We locked eyes and I immediately regretted opening the door. His eyes were a mix of black and fire. His entire being was radiating anger.
“I swear I just heard your door open and shut—like Scott just left,” he said in a voice that was trying to mask the rage he was feeling inside. “I know he was with you! Where’s my stuff, Kiersten? I can’t fucking believe you!”
“Can you please just come in? It’s inside my apartment. Just please come in. I’m so sorry.”
He stormed past me and opened the door to what was technically his home—our home—for a year. In a quick motion, he scooped up a large box marked TONY and started toward the elevator. Of course, there was more to carry than one box, so I had to make the decision as to what to do next. The side of me that wasn’t scared of him was taking over. I felt the buzzing sensation on my hip, again.
I quickly put my shoes on and followed behind him with the rest of his things. He wouldn’t look at me or talk to me during the elevator ride, and I’d never seen him so mad, yet so quiet. We stepped off the elevator in silence. I trailed Tony to his car that was parked in a bed of two feet of snow. I watched as he opened the side door and threw his box on the seat. Next, he forcefully grabbed what I’d brought down and threw it on top of the first box and slammed the door.
He stared back at me with a look that said he never wanted to see my face again. He got in the driver’s seat, slammed the door, and peeled out, leaving me standing alone on the snow-covered sidewalk.
I stood there for a few minutes trying to wrap my brain around what had just happened as tears streamed down my face. A mix of snow and guilt coated me, rendering me motionless. I couldn’t take one step. Not one step. I couldn’t believe what I had just done.
My attempt to stand my ground left me feeling empty and sad. He’d driven all night, and I turned him away. I was trying to be so strong, and now it was over. Yet again, he left angry. The closure I sought was nowhere in sight. All I wanted was to see him, and do it all over again differently.
I sent him messages all morning while I sat in my cubicle at the university telling him how sorry I was that I let fear take over. Fear that we would fight, and the cops would come again. He didn’t answer for a long time. I knew he was preparing for the event so I left him alone, but later that night, I couldn’t take it anymore. He was in town and I was going to find him. I drove around manically trying to find his car parked out front of a shitty hotel. I never found him, and he wouldn’t talk to me.
It was torture knowing he was there in town yet I couldn’t reach him. The next morning, I went to work sending more messages asking if he was okay and telling him that I was worried and sorry. He finally answered. I told him I’d been driving around trying to find his car. Apparently, I’d forgotten about a few motels down the road. He said he’d already left his motel and was making plans to stay at a friend’s house that night.
Finally, he accepted my apology. We wrote back and forth throughout the day—I could feel him letting his guard down. I begged for another chance to see him, and he relented. Tony accepted the fact that I was scared to let him stay with me, and he apologized for making me feel that way. It wasn’t something he could deny because he openly talked about getting a handle on the anger issues that he said had all but disappeared before we met. In the same breath, he would also say he’s from part of the country that prided itself on yelling and screaming, so it was in his DNA.
Tony knew I had every right to feel scared. After all, he’d even sought help from my therapist once because he didn’t want to lose me. We talked on the phone about how when we met, we literally jumped right into a serious relationship where we were both leaving spouses. As if that wasn’t enough, we added the stress of growing our businesses on top of it all. Finally, we called a truce and admitted we’d never really dated like normal people.
That night, we would date. He planned to pick me up, we’d go to dinner, and instead of staying with me, he would drop me off, and go on to stay at his buddy’s house. Once again, excitement and longing replaced excruciating pain and fear. The pendulum had swung in the opposite direction and I felt high. My entire body vibrated with excitement.
As I got ready for our dinner date at a local Italian eatery, I thought of all the things I needed to do to prepare for the night to mitigate the chances of another colossal breakdown. I silenced my phone, hid messages from Scott and other people he didn’t like, prepared to be cognizant of eye contact, and trained myself to resist looking around the restaurant. I didn’t want that look from him that said I wasn’t focused on him. I couldn’t take another blow up.
I was down to the lowest weight I’d been in years, eating sporadically, and puffing on cigarettes like a veteran smoker while desperately trying to find grounded calm in between panic attacks. I was a fucking mess.
I knew we both wanted to stare into one another’s eyes and see what we saw three years earlier. Thankfully, we did just that. Dinner was beautiful because we didn’t fight. But I cried through much of it while he held my hand. He teared up, too. He was sweet and tender throughout the night and even dropped me off at my place as we planned, even though I’m sure he could feel me caving.
He asked me to come to his event the next day to spend time with him in the booth. I knew I’d have time to myself because the kids were staying with Scott all weekend. Tony kissed me goodnight, holding onto me like he never wanted to let me go, then drove over to his friend’s house who had an extra bed for him that night. (Years later, I’d learn that he was putting the moves on his friend’s roommate, making her feel so uncomfortable that she locked her bedroom door that night.) When he got settled in across town, he called and told me how wonderful it was to be with me that night. He said he was sad that we never had the chance to properly date. He told me that no matter what our future held, he would love me then, now, and forever. I was his soulmate, TNF.
When I arrived at the event the next day, Tony introduced me to his booth neighbors and event producers as his better half. It felt good to hear him praise me, and talk positively about us. That night and the night after, he stayed with me before he had to head back up north.
We played, laughed, loved, and talked about the good times. He made sure I knew how hurt he was that Scott was moving into the complex. It broke my heart to know what once was our home didn’t feel like home to him anymore. With that said, I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t change any of it. I understood where he was coming from, but I wouldn’t choose between my kids and Tony. No matter what I felt in my heart for him, it didn’t change the fact that I knew I was doing the right thing for Noah and Grace.
As I watched his car disappear on his way out of town, I made a mental note to freeze what I was feeling at thatmoment. I felt love for a man who I knew was just as wounded as me. I rationalize that finally I’d pinpointed the problem. Our wounded sides were wreaking havoc and had been since we met. In that moment, I felt hope… again.
Even In Dark Times, There Is Light
After I shared what happened this past week regarding a mass my doctor found on my cervix, I received a kind, supportive message from a friend of mine. Gretchen and I haven’t seen each other in years and we don’t talk regularly, but ever since we met four years ago at a party, I knew she was one of those special, soulful people that lights up every room she enters.
When Gretchen heard the news of the mass, she reached out asking if the doctor I mentioned that I’m seeing this week was the same one she saw for her hysterectomy. Indeed, he is the same doctor. She offered to tell me about her experience with him so I called her up and we spoke for an hour.
I never could have predicted what happened during the call.
While she told me that I’d unknowingly been paired with the best gynecological surgeon in town, she also shared that she, too, had endured childhood sexual abuse. And she endured painful cervical procedures. Turns out, she also suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome (like me) for many years until her hysterectomy.
It seems what my grandmother (in spirit) and Jason (in spirit) told me about stored trauma in the body creating physical issues is pretty spot on. I never doubted it, honestly, but what are the odds that I meet someone with a similar journey and the exact same medical issues?
During our conversation, Gretchen mentioned her mother who passed away a year and a half ago. As I listened to her talk about her mom, I immediately felt Karen come into the room. Chills raced up and down the left side of my body—my sign that a spirit who has crossed into the light wants my attention. (When I feel chills up the right side of my body, I know the spirit has not crossed into the light. I share more about this in my upcoming book.)
I’ve been channeling spirit since I was 36-years-old, but most of the time I channel children in spirit. It’s rare for me to talk with someone about a deceased loved one (adult) and feel that loved one step in unless there is some connection to abuse, murder, sudden death, or suicide. 95% of the channeling I do involves children who are on the other side.
In my mind’s eye, I saw Karen’s outstretched arms holding a bundle of yellow daisies. When Gretchen finished talking about her beautiful mother, I told her what I was picking up—that her mom had just popped in and presented an image I felt strongly I needed to share. Gretchen thanked me for telling her what I saw saying that she related to the message, especially given the fact that Karen was an avid gardener. It’s where Gretchen got her love for digging in the dirt as well.
I never met Karen, nor did I know anything about her other than she succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease, but I suspected she was an amazing woman given that she’s Gretchen’s mother.
“Kiersten, when my mom was alive, she was a marriage and family therapist who specialized in working with sexual predators. She even went into prisons and worked to help rehab pedophiles and sexual predators."
My jaw hit the floor.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No wonder she came through to me. I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor who has worked (as a volunteer intuitive medium) on cold cases involving children who were abused and murdered by pedophiles. I also unknowingly fell for a man who turned out to be an abusive malignant narcissist and sexual predator—one that I have a restraining order against. My story is full-circle, to say the least.
And now, here I was in this incredibly full-circle moment.
I couldn’t believe that we both worked to stop sexual predators. Of course, I don’t work the same way Karen did, but still, our mission is now and forever the same: ending sexual abuse. I applaud her efforts to do what I’m sure few dare to do. What an incredible warrior she was...and still is.
Shortly after Gretchen’s mom came and went, we talked a little longer about what I will likely face in my appointment this Thursday. Gretchen helped me feel at ease about the doctor we share, the process, the surgery, and the aftermath.
I am enormously grateful to these two incredible angels. Gretchen and Karen, you have touched my life in ways I can never fully express.
And you’ve shown me, once again, that even in dark times there is light.
Related: Nate's Story (Spirit Story) and TEDx Talk
I’ve vacillated multiple times about whether I should share what I’m about to share. Ultimately, I decided to talk about this part of my journey as it unfolds. And include all of its hard, embarrassing, jaw-dropping nuggets of truth.
So here goes…
Three days ago, a doctor found a mass on my cervix. Not a small, strain-to-see kind of mass, but rather a mass that made itself known immediately.
What led me to the doctor’s office wasn’t a list of symptoms or a feeling that I might have something wrong with my cervix. It was a fear that a tampon had gotten “lost.” I didn’t really have any proof other than the occasional sensation that something felt off. Even though we women don’t talk about it openly, the accidental lost tampon is something that has happened to countless women.
After I finally realized I needed a professional to step in, I donned my cloak of shame and jumped in the car next to Scott. When I got to Planned Parenthood, because I couldn’t get into my regular OBGYN clinic, I sheepishly told them what I thought was happening. The front office person didn’t seem phased at all. Still, I felt pretty embarrassed by it all.
While waiting for the doctor to come in, I sat perched on the exam table thinking about how much I HATED these types of appointments, and how much I wished my husband could have been in the room with me. He's normally by my side holding my hand because he knows how hard it is from me as a sexual abuse survivor. Because of COVID, he wasn’t allowed in, so he waited in the car.
The doctor and nurse team made me feel a little more comfortable by telling me that what I thought I’d done is pretty common. I also warned them that I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor which makes me, even at the age of 47, want to run from OBGYN visits.
They talked me through what they were doing up until the room went silent. I instantly knew something was wrong. After a minute or so, the doctor spoke.
“Kiersten, I do not see a tampon…but I do see a mass on your cervix.”
I was rendered speechless just before the tell-tale signs that I was going to pass out moved through my body. I did my best not to faint while she continued to poke around. The pain I felt from the exam wasn’t helping; the room started to spin.
After asking if I was okay, she continued, “In addition to the mass I see, a normal cervix is supposed to be spongy when pressed on but yours is hard. You need to get to your gynecologist right away. Do you have a history of cancer or cervical cancer in your family?”
As I gathered the strength to sit up and answer her now that she was done with the exam, I immediately regretted it.
“I need to lie back down…I think I’m going to pass out.”
She comforted me as I did my best to stay conscious. After a few minutes, the world stopped spinning and I was able to answer her question.
“Yes, many in my family have had cancer. My mom has had breast cancer twice, and I remember that she also had a hysterectomy due to pre-cancerous cells. My dad survived a rare form of eye cancer 20 years ago….”
And then it hit me. My grandma. Oh my god, my Grandma Pennington came to me in spirit a month ago and just stood by my side of the bed. She didn’t say a word but I could feel a sense of protection and warning. I naively thought it was about staying COVID-free and didn’t press her for more because I was dog tired that night.
When Grandma was in her late twenties, she had her cervix removed.
I relayed the bit about Grandma to the doctor and she reiterated that she’d be writing up a referral for me to be seen by my clinic ASAP. Her expression spoke volumes showing me that she knew exactly what I was likely facing.
I had already told her that the man I was with while Scott and I were separated had, according to my primary doctor, given me HPV since it had never showed up on my tests prior to him coming into my life. In all my years, I’d only had one irregular pap after Scott and I got back together. And it culminated in a coloscopy. The results came back in 2017 as normal. I was okay, according to my gynecologist.
And now, three years later, I'm not okay.
What hit me like a ton of bricks wasn’t the realization that the HPV was likely the cause of this mass, but rather a memory of a message from one of my guides in spirit (Jason) that happened back in September of 2020. He told me that I needed to put my manuscript away (even though my literary agent was still shopping it with publishers) because I would be adding to it in 2021 before I’d land a book deal. I didn’t know what he was talking about regarding what else I’d add. Nor did I want to believe that he was right about having to wait longer for publishing contract. I’d hoped that one would come by the end of 2020 but it never did.
This. This was what I was supposed to write about. While this revelation didn’t quell my fear of cancer, it did explain what Jason meant four months ago.
After making an appointment for next week with my regular clinic, I dove down the rabbit hole of Google. And I almost threw up before closing my laptop. Immediately after, I picked up my phone to relay the news to my dear friend (and fellow psychic medium) Cynthia Spiece.
She calmed my fear when she immediately started channeling both my Grandma Pennington and Jason. Both had messages for me about why this was happening. And why the mass is here to help me rather than hurt me.
In a nutshell, they said that the sexual trauma I endured at the hands of two sexual predators (one when I was 5 and one when I was 40) had led to unresolved trauma that was stuck in my pelvic region. I am no stranger to gynecological issues having been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome years ago, but I hadn’t really thought about the fact that I’ve quite literally been carrying the scars of the trauma I endured (and the disease I got from the second predator) in my pelvis. Every minute of every day. And now, I’m finally at the point where I can heal the unresolved trauma by removing those parts from my body.
I’ll know more next week but given my family history and my personal health history, I will likely undergo a radical hysterectomy as well as have my cervix removed.
“You will be okay, Kiers. You were guided to find this right now,” Jason reassured me. “It’s the final piece of healing and the final piece that needs to be added to your book.”
Hearing Cynthia and other trusted intuitive mediums relay the same message was calming to say the least. The “phantom tampon” (as my agent calls it) was indeed guiding me to see a professional when I did.
Before Cynthia and I hung up, I asked her one more question about the doc I will see next week. You see, he’s a man and I haven’t seen a male gynecologist since Grace was born. I was nervous about seeing a male doc given my history of abuse but he was the only one who could fit me into his schedule.
“Kiers, you actually NEED a man to help spearhead your physical healing. A caring man who is the farthest thing from a predator that will finally help rid you of the trauma. Do you see how full circle this is?”
I knew she was right because as I stood there listening to her, tears streamed down my face.
Full circle healing, indeed.
Turns out, I like this new doc already. He's allowing Scott to accompany me to the appointment next week—something they aren't letting anyone else do. Because I told them I am a sexual abuse survivor, he recognizes how important it is that I have my husband by my side during the exam.
I’m sharing this experience on my blog because one in four women is sexually abused in her lifetime. And many of us, myself included, don’t connect trauma to physical ailments that arise long after the abuse is over.
I will be sure to keep you in the loop over the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you are a sexual abuse survivor who is dealing with issues in the pelvic region/kidneys/bladder, etc, I hope you’ll think about my story and possibly find it helpful as you move through the stages of healing.
Also, once again, spirit came in to help me understand the next chapter in my healing journey.
And the final chapter in my book.
**Thank you to Cynthia Spiece, Steph Arnold, Egan Griffith, Yvette Godfrey for passing intuitive messages to me and keeping me sane through this, and thank you to my friends and family who are being so incredibly supportive and loving.
***To those of you who read my blog and are survivors of abuse at the hands of my uncle (or any pedophile) as well as the man I was with from 2014-2017 who turned out to be a predator in his own right, please consider that if you're having physical issues in your pelvic region that you might want to check out the New York Times Bestseller, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. And of course, you can always reach out to me privately.