Wednesday, January 31, 2007

That Bruise on the Face

Let's start with color.

At first there may be no change at all.

But maybe you touch your face and it hurts, but maybe only in one spot. You can tell it's a deep hematoma (bruise) by the feel, that sharp ping to the touch gives it away.

Immediately you hope there's no damage, no chips to the bone.

But the color's still good, so you think. . .well, maybe this won't be so bad.

But the next day there's a soft yellow pigmentation that's creeping across half of your face. And the day after that, it's turned to ochre.

And the day after the day after that, a horseradish mustard. It's so dark that make-up's not quite working the way it should. Then the mustard morphs to light olive, then olive.

You feel like a freaking painter's pallet.

Oh, and it hurts. Yes, it hurts. It hurts a lot while you apply make-up, and while it's healing it can itch, and you want to touch it but you don't want to destroy your make-up and you SURELY don't want anyone to see you or even to know or ask about this.


They'll think he hit you, of course. You can hear the jokes, too.

Ha, ha, what happened? Did you say No? Ha, ha, what happened? Did you say something about his uh, . . . mother? Ha, ha, what happened, take the remote control?

And 9 times out of 10, I would think that, too, that it's from a whack to the punim (yiddish for face) but I'd never say that or make fun. That kind of cringe "fun" makes me nauseous.

It's a pretty natural deduction in our violent world to think that a person with a facial injury might have been hit. But when you get one of those things and you weren't hit, well, you can get really confused and can go through a lot of strange vibrations all because, well,

You have a bruise on the face.

When I had that indomitable virus last week it sucked a lot of fluid out of me, that's the running theory and truth, I'm pretty sure. The cough, the mucous, the fever. I didn't keep up, although I had been trying to drink water, de-caf tea, lemonade, etc.

And my empathy level shot up for people I'd seen with these symptoms the week before, people who had cancelled appointments.

The addiction to caffeine was in high form, however, like every other blogger's is, natch, on any good day. But that's not a good thing when you're sick, even if it's only 3 or 4 cups a day (like mine) and half-caff at that . So I woke up one of those bleak febrile mornings and jumped into my usual drug-seeking a.m. routine.

See, routine is everything. My psychologist cousin, Peter Rosenzweig has a bunch of interesting platitudes, like certain people need a lot of oil, and 99% of what we do, we do unconsciously.

So the routine is the unconsciously thing.

I did my routine upon awakening, thanked the Old Mighty for bringing me to consciousness when I opened my eyes, then bolted out of bed to see if F.D. had made the caffeinated juice.

He hadn't and he was in the shower.

I got to the kitchen and felt light-headed. People do. I ignored it and started grinding the beans. Felt VERY light headed and within seconds, received "You are passing out you idiot" signals from the brain, but the wiring, the hard-wired program of routine wouldn't quit, the wanting to get the coffee started.

Didn't matter how high the fever. Had to get the coffee started, then sit down and rest, a task easily accomplished, thought I, before passing out was even possible. Who passes out?

Then the, "You idiot, you waited too long to sit down" message kicked in. Tried frantically to dive to the safety of my fave living room chair, only a seven-foot sprint away.

But I didn't make it. Woke up where?

Under the piano. Don' know how.

Where am I?

Right out of the movies. Terrified, weak, dizzy, confused. And a very loud message I HAVE TO MAKE THE COFFEE still buzzing. How strange is the brain on fever? PRETTY strange.

Since face didn't show any change in color I didn't ice it. Didn't even think of icing it (Chicago-in-the-winter blindness). Ice a potential bruise immediately, okay?

So I was stuck trying to hide this for over a week until the thing faded.

But it made me more more thoughtful, more aware that at this moment, as you read this, that there are dozens of women getting the blank kicked out of them. Below I threw together a bunch of statistics for your light reading pleasure.

The green in this doc's face is just about gone, cheek kind of looks like I've been drawing with charcoal and forgot to wash up. Only a few people have noticed it through my efforts with make-up and paint.

But I made a few changes, take it a little slower in the morning, think a little longer about what I'm saying when thanking the Old Mighty for having brought me back to consciousness.

And I've let F.D. make the coffee the last couple of days. He does a better job anyway. (as of this post this is no longer true, but it was true when I wrote it, natch, the homeostasis of behavior is one strong current, plus I'm up earlier, the real reason).

P. S. This was never a post I thought I'd write. Even after it happened, such a rich source of blogging material, rich potential for humor, pathos, color, I still had NO intention of writing about what happened.

But F.D. said, "Of course you should tell that story. It's all about the bruise on the face. How could a person in your profession just let that go?"

I think I felt some shame. In my head there was this Maybe People Will Think I Did Something Wrong to Deserve This message. That was a real gut reaction, one that made the experience all the more surreal, no matter the lack of reason or rationale.

And that IS what people really do think, at least at some point, when they've been victimized by something, someone more powerful than a virus.

But when I've seen people with obvious red flags, signals that something just might be seriously wrong with their lives, like black eyes, arms in slings, cut lips, I personally have never thought that way. I've assumed abuse, but not blame.

Who blames a victim anymore?

It's worth a discussion, right?

A few stats, either from the American Psychological Association's Intimate Partner Abuse and Relationship Violence Working Group or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

28% of the violent crime against women is intimate partner violence,
perpetrated by a spouse or significant other, like a boyfriend or even a date.
(NCADV, 2001).

Depending upon the survey, either 1 in 4, or 1 in 5 women have reported
being assaulted by an intimate partner at some time in her lifetime, versus
either 1 out of every 14 men.

Intimate partner homicides has accounted for about 32% of the murders of female,
4% of the murders of males in some studies.

Prevalence cuts across racial, economic, and sexual minority lines.

In the previous 12 months, 1.3 million women and 835,000 men had been
physically assaulted by an intimate partner. However, women were 7 to 14 times
more likely to experience serious acts of partner violence, and were
significantly more likely to sustain injuries than men who were victims of
intimate violence.

And I haven't even discussed sexual abuse. We're mainly into battering, here.

Solutions? What can we do?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends that you
contact members of Congress to support additional funding for domestic violence
programs through the Violence Against Women Act, the Victims of Crime Act Fund,
or the Family Violence and Prevention Services Act.

You can also work with policy advocacy groups to influence your state
legislature to pass progressive domestic violence laws and ensure local programs
fund prevention and intervention.

Or you can work at a DV shelter as a volunteer, or translate for a
local agency.

The APA working group wants professionals to get out there and teach these

That's what we're doing today. Learn ONE stat and mention it at the next cocktail party, wedding or Bar Mitzvah. That'd be doing something, believe it or not.

You'd be raising awareness, which is cool.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. We need more resources!!! Resources for families are not easy to find and awareness is sooooo important. So thanks for getting the word out.

I do want to expand awareness on one part... and that is the *statistical* representation of men. The statistics make us minimize or dismiss the trauma suffered by men who are the victims of domestic violence -- although the suffering of those men (no matter how statistically small) is as real as their female counterparts. There are more and more resources for "domestic violence" but many serve the needs of women ONLY -- often ignoring the cries for help from men. (Ask SHALVA how many male victims they have helped since they were founded, or how they respond to a hotline call from a male victim?) Add to that the additional social shame men suffer for not being REAL men ("Yeah right, the little lady hit you?" "C'mon, you're 6 inches taller and a good 50 pounds heavier. Don't tell me she actually hit you!"). Even the police often have this attitude -- and look down on a man who can't (won't?) take care of this himself and calls the police when his partner becomes violent. (Implicit in this, is that a REAL man would, of course, respond to violence with MORE violence.)

Statistics are important for social change, but every individual -- regardless of their statistical status -- deserves our support and attention. Women have fought long and hard to have their needs (psychological, medical, professional, etc) recognized -- and with our awareness, we should be inclusive in our efforts, rather than exluding those who may need -- and benefit -- from what we've learned.

And while I'm blathering on, I also want to encourage you to include statistics about another part of the eco-system... the children who live with domestic violence -- about how or what they suffer from watching a parent brutalize another parent, about the likelihood that they will learn that violence (physical, verbal) is the way to solve a problem, and, finally, that shame is a way of life... that no one should ever know about what happens behind closed doors.

BTW, I'm NOT a man. I'm a woman who survived an explosive and violent relationship. I've learned about the importance of listening to men as well from the men I've met through my own experience. (When you listen, they talk...) As for the kids, well, they DO recover, but not without lots of work.

therapydoc said...

Your response is EXACTLY what I'm fishing for when I throw out those lines. Thank you so much.

I will post on the effects of violence on children as soon as I get it together.

Yes, men are people, too, and if I beat on them on occasion (well, truely, I think I only did that once and it was recently) it's in jest.

The after-effects of shame, disrespect, and abuse are the same for men. Humiliation (we've talked about that) and abuse lower self-esteem, increase self-blame, self-doubt, etc.

bjurstrom said...

Dear Doc,
Regarding bruises and other things like tired eyes, I've found that HUGE EARRINGS do the trick. They are so distracting and fun that no one notices anything else. In fact, these earrings take on a LIFE of their own....Now I just wear them for fun.....Average cost--about $8.00 @ Target.
Second thing, Nancy Pelosi should be made to watch the 1940 film Arizona, starring Jean Arthur. What a woman! She single-handily saves the Arizona Territory (during the Civil War), fights evil-doers, makes a million bucks in an honest way and marries the Right guy. A real role model. George and I love old movies and TCM (channel 501) does a nice job. If Nancy can't watch this flick then she needs to be re-acquainted (or acquainted as the case may be) with Dorothy Day (a modern social justice Catholic saint). Thanks for your integrity.

Anonymous said...

"In my head there was this Maybe People Will Think I Did Something Wrong to Deserve This message."

This sort of thinking happens with emotional abuse too.

Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...


I wish that when I was a teenager there could have been a big visible black-and-blue bruise on my face that screamed "I am being emotionally and mentally abused by my stepmonster and I am too terrified to tell anybody."

:(.................. (tears)

therapydoc said...

Oh, Anon, there probably WERE big bruises to the discerning eye. What gets me is why more adults didn't attend to them. They could see. Am sure. At least some of them could see.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jeanie said...

Hey there TherapyDoc

Statistics are amazing - and can pack a punch (to coin a phrase)

Last week, a newspaper down here published a story with the opening: "TASMANIAN children living with single mothers featured in 40 per cent of child-abuse and neglect cases last financial year, a national report shows"

And I thought - isn't that strange? The focus has been taken from the abuse and placed on the single mothers.

Another good target for abuse.

Because it isn't about the statistics (or the 60% in other households) - it is about the fact that EACH and EVERY abuse case hurts.

And it is so important that as many as possible are found and salved and given solace as soon as possible - because every abuse case hurts, and hurts sometimes for generations.

Thanks for your posts.

therapydoc said...

Hi Jeannie,

Thanks for the added info. If we were in class I'd have to source my stats and you'd have to source yours.

I think there's a book out there that I read called How To Lie With Statistics.

You don't find too many on this blog because I agree, the group statistics say nothing about individual pain and there are ways to "reformat" stats.

Anonymous said...

Therapydoc, You have decided not to publish my commment made yesterday regarding my own experiences with Shalva. I respect your choice as it is your blog and you reserve the right to decide. I only hope that in your role in the community and the respect and connections you have you will at least pass along the experiences several men including me in the community have had with the people at Shalva. It would be nice if the key people at Shalva knew the kind of advice the Shalva staff has given to some of the women in our community.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Wow brilliant, awareness is everthing.

therapydoc said...

Dear Anonymous (the last anonymous)

you wrote:

Therapydoc, You have decided not to publish my commment made yesterday regarding my own experiences with Shalva, etc.

Hold your horses!

I published EVERYTHING I received yesterday. Is it possible you didn't finish the form properly? By all means, send it again so that I can publish your comment!

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your post, there is another side to it also. From the Washington Post, on a study done by the American Family Institute:

The study found that, contrary to public perception, women committed more acts of violence than their male partners in 11 overall categories of violence. Specifically, women were more likely than men to throw something, push, grab, shove, slap, kick, bite, hit or threaten a partner with a knife or gun.
However, men were more likely than women to commit "severe" acts of violence, such as beating, choking, burning, forcing sex or actually using a knife or gun on their partners.
When minor and major acts of violence were tallied, female-to-male violence accounted for 18.2 percent of overall violence and 7.5 percent of severe violence. Male-to-female violence accounted for 13.7 percent of overall violence and 8.6 percent of severe violence.

therapydoc said...

Thanks so much Scott. I'd love to see the study. If you have a link, let me know, sounds like such an interesting study and the findings make intuitive sense. To me, at least.

Anonymous said...

TherapyDoc - as requested.

Capaldi, D. M. & Owen, L. D. (2001). Physical aggression in a community sample of at-risk young couples: Gender comparisons for high frequency, injury, and fear. Journal of Family Psychology, 15 (3), 425-440. Drawn from a community based at-risk sample, 159 young couples were assessed with the Conflict Tactics scale and measures of self reported injuries. Findings indicated that 9.4% of men and 13.2% of women perpetrated frequent physical aggression toward their partners. Contrary to expectations, 13% of men and 9% of women, indicated that they were physically injured at least once. Authors report "2% of the men and none of the women indicate that they had been hurt by their partners between five and nine times."

therapydoc said...

Thanks again, Scott. I'll get it.

Anonymous said...

I had to emphasize with your post today...I have idiopathic angioedema, which means that sometimes parts of my face (eyes, lips, nose) swell up for no reason, and it looks like I've been beaten. Since it happens so often, I've gotten used to the stares and whispers in public, but my fiance HATES to go out with me when I am having a flare - it breaks his heart that people think that he has done this to me. (I've often joked about having a button made that says It's A Disease, Not My Sweetie!) However, my condition makes me more aware of those around me - both those that may be abuse, and those that may not be. I no longer see a person with a bruise or swelling as automatically "abused" or "injured" and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not...

therapydoc said...

Diana, If only there were some P.C. way to engage a person in that dialogue. But I don't think so.

Thanks so much for sharing. I vote for the button, not staying home! How hard could this be?

April_optimist said...

When I have too much dairy, I look as if I have a black eye. Now that I know, I can avoid the situation but I still remember vividly the embarrassment of attending a PTA meeting and having the principal stare at me clearly trying to decide whether or not he should ask questions. My son's music teacher actually asked what had happened. And I, too, had the fear that people would think I'd done something wrong.

It is important to make people aware of how prevalent abuse is. I had a friend get out of an abusive marriage. (One evening I literally stood between him and her and talked him down out of his rage.) Because she had the wisdom to leave BEFORE he put her in the hospital, when she went through her divorce, it was only when I stepped up, prepared to testify, that even her own lawyer would believe what she was saying and that appalls me.

therapydoc said...

And then a hero comes along.

You're fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing with us. We all HAVE to do this, you know. There's no running away from it.

Marj aka Thriver said...

You are a very wonderful writer. The way you compose really brings home the message in a most poignant way. I'm so glad to have you participating in this blog carnival. Want to host sometime? You'd be a fantastic edition host.

therapydoc said...

Sure, I'd love to.

Anonymous said...

When I had a bunch of chelazions removed some time ago, the procedure caused some bruising on the lower eyelid. (The opthamologist did a fantastic job, though; only one site bruised, and that mainly from the anesthetic injections.) I was heavily pregnant at the time, and I was a bit startled at how rapidly each nurse's and doctor's attention zoomed in on that bruise, very carefully and neutrally asking how it happened. They asked so diplomatically that it took me a while to realize *why* they were interested in the cause of my bruise. It was a peculiar feeling, to be sure. I almost never wear makeup, so there was nothing concealing it.

My grandmother has a hard time with that. Due to prednisone used to treat severe lifelong asthma, her skin is extremely fragile. Barking her shin on a table will usually require the attention of a plastic surgeon. Consequently, it is rare to see her *without* bruises. She's in the process of getting a melanoma removed (it's taking several surgeries) and simultaneously repairing a botched skin graft on her forehead; I know the inevitable bruising is really bothering her. It's unfortunate, but it has to be.

Part of the trouble with face bruises is that we place such emphasis on our faces -- not out of vanity, but because of a sense of identity. A bruise changes what we look like in an oddly fundamental way.

Anonymous said...

What if it's your parents, but your'e 25 with a B.A. and you can't find a job because of the recession and you have to move back in and there are NO options, because, let's face it, a 25 year old shouldn't be living with her parents, so she deserves what she gets, right? Their house, their rules. And I so want to leave but there are no options. I get hit, I stay with a friend for a night, but then I have to go back because I'm not a battered woman. I'm a child who lives with her parents and I pretty much deserve it. And I have no health insurance, no car insurance, my job pays nothing... what the hell do I do when I'm not a battered 'significan other-' when I'm a useless adult sponging off people who hate me because I have nowhere else and no one will hire me? Where are the shelters for idiots like me, and how do I live without my medicine? I've looked into it already. I'm boned, and I probably deserve what I get, because what 25 year old can't support herself with a bachelors degree?
This comes on the heels of getting punched in the face four times, and guess what? I went straight back, cuz otherwise I'll starve.
I wish people cared more about my bruises.

therapydoc said...

I think some people care. I would suggest you get out of there and call it what it is, criminal. It changes from child abuse to a crime when you're a legal adult.

But you're not my patient so this is purely conjecture.

And I'm not a lawyer.

But if you were my patient I'd hook you up with domestic violence people at the police station and have you ask for assistance from them.

They find shelter for victims of domestic crimes, which this is. And they make you talk to social workers who begin to get to work on your self-esteem. I general, if this were my case, that's where I would begin.

But it's not, and your first step is to get real help, someone in the flesh. I'd start with the cops. Your family has no right, none, none what-so-ever, even if you did do something terrible, which sounds unlikely, to hurt you.

They don't have this right, battery.

That's criminal, your parents are criminals if they hurt you, and you have the power to put them in jail.

When faced with that option, most people stop battering their kids.
And if they throw you out, it's for the best, a domestic violence shelter is safer. I hope you live in a place with these social services.

It's a self-esteem thing. You have to decide that you're worth it. They won't stay in jail long, probably, for a bruise on the face.

But it's likely they'll stay a little while.

And guess what? Anyone who puts a bruise on their kid's face deserves it. That's not just my opinion, by the way.

Good luck, get help. I think I'd better write more on this one.

therapydoc said...

Oops, accidentally deleted Mark's comment. Here it is:

This is a very good way for us to raise awareness about abuse.
I am amazed and saddened by the statistics that you provided.
I am disturbed knowing that many people who are abused are abused over and over again, usually by the people they are closest to and that for many reasons they do not take themselves our of the abusive relationship.

It is disheartening to know that many of those abused will go on to abuse others and help to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
Awarness is one of the first steps. We need to take our heads out of the sand.

We must teach people that no one deserves to be abused, No ONE!

Anonymous said...

Doc, I know you like knowing about songs/videos that relate to your work. This is one:

What's Going to Be with Our Kids?