Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Want to Talk about Abuse, Trauma and PTSD

Cynics tend to scoff at PTSD. Stuff that goes on in people's brains isn't visible; so it must not be real, right? We must just be making it up...or being overly dramatic...or too sensitive...or seeking attention.

I see comments such as those on social media. They're hurtful. Because I'm here to tell you: PTSD is very, VERY real.

I didn't have it before knowing Thomas Maffei. I wasn't hyper-vigilant about the behavior of men. I didn't scare easily from relationships. I didn't startle easily at loud voices or noises. I didn't flinch at a car backfiring.

I didn't cover my ears and curl up in a ball sobbing when I heard fireworks.

I do now. This past 4th of July, I was sitting alone in my house in the early evening. My kids were at our next door neighbor's/friend's house. We were planning to go to the fireworks in town, but it was raining. I thought it was a good time to relax, have some alone time that I rarely get. I sat back on the couch, stretched out my legs and scrolled through Facebook.

Then I heard POP-POP-POP!! It sounded very close.

Next thing I knew, I had my hands over my ears and I was curled into the corner of the couch in the fetal position. I burst into uncontrollable sobbing. I couldn't breathe.

It's weird. Logically, in my head, I knew I was safe and not back in that apartment with bullets flying through my body. But the pop sounds from fireworks in the neighborhood caught me off-guard and my body reacted. I think it was because 1) I was alone and 2) it was the same number of pops. It took me to that moment of sheer terror--that he really had shot a gun. That I was going to die.

I texted my friend next door and she came over to calm me down. She just kept telling me that I was safe, over and over again. It took a little while but I did settle down.

The worst part about PTSD is that you just never know when or what will trigger you. I didn't expect to be melting down on the 4th of July. I LOVE 4th of July!!! At least I used to. I actually do believe that I can be at a fireworks event and watch them and be ok because my brain understands what it is seeing. The pops from those fireworks were unexpected and I didn't see them--only heard. I'm also triggered by people's behavior, particularly men. Tone of voice is a big one. Being pushy is another one. It's not that I sob every time something triggers me. There are varying degrees. Certain behavior tends to make me put my guard up and go numb. 

I tend to be "heavier" than I used to be.

To my friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone else who knew me pre-shooting: I truly do understand that you miss the "old Kate." I know you want to see me go back to "normal." You want my Facebook posts to go back to funny and lighthearted snippets of my life, my beloved someecards, Onion articles--the humor that made me me. You may not want to see the heavy domestic and gun violence stuff. It's a painful reminder that you almost lost me, and that I'm far from the "old Kate" you once knew.

Please understand that I am healing the best way I know how. I know I'm not the same as I was before the shooting.

I don't know how anyone could possibly be the same after a murder attempt.

I found a great list from Heal My PTSD about understanding those with PTSD. I highly recommend anyone who loves someone who survived trauma to commit this list to memory.

#1 – Knowledge is power. Understanding the process of a triggering event, the psychic reaction to trauma, the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD, and available treatment options for PTSD allows you to help recognize, support and guide your PTSD loved one toward diagnosis, treatment and healing.
We need you to be clearheaded, pulled together and informed.
#2 – Trauma changes us. After trauma we want to believe —as do you—that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were. This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.
Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.
#3 – PTSD hijacks our identity. One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening.
Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.
#4 – We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe.
Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.
#5 – We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control.
Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviors that are so difficult for you to endure.
#6 – We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don’t always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do.
Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.
#7 – We cannot just ‘get over it.’ From the outside it’s easy to imagine a certain amount of time passes and memories fade and trauma gets relegated to the history of a life. Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades. Our bodies will not let us forget. Because of surging chemicals that reinforce every memory, we cannot walk away from the past anymore than you can walk away from us.
Honor our struggle to make peace with events. Do not rush us. Trying to speed our recovery will only make us cling to it more.
#8 – We’re not in denial—we’re coping! It takes a tremendous effort to live with PTSD. Even if we don’t admit it, we know there’s something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there’s a problem that’s really code for, “I’m doing the best I can.” Taking the actions you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus from what is holding us together. Sometimes, simply getting up and continuing our daily routine is the biggest step toward recovery we make.
Alleviate our stress by giving us a safe space in which we can find support.
#9 – We do not hate you. Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, somewhere inside we do know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we may use your face as PTSD’s image. Since we cannot directly address our PTSD issues sometimes it’s easier to address you.
Continue to approach us. We need you to!
#10 - Your presence matters. PTSD creates a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we lash out, don’t respond and are not ourselves, you are still there, no matter what.
Don’t give up, we’re doing our best.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Time When His Father Called Him a Sociopath

Oh how I wish I had the email his father sent him in the first several months I knew him.

He had already told me about his strained/non-existent relationship with his father, who lived in some extremely remote area in South Dakota. He said his father loved his ex-wife before me and blamed him for it ending. The indication was that his father was a flirt and thought his ex-wife was attractive--which I found disturbing, obviously. He told me that he'd tried to tell his father about how abusive she was, about how she'd thrown a wine bottle at him and broken his ribs, how she'd stomped on his foot and broken toes. He said he'd even sent his father the hospital record to prove it. But his father believed she was provoked somehow and that he was at fault, that he deserved her abuse.

After he met me, he said he'd had a rare conversation with his father, that he told him about me. The father didn't approve, however, because I had a child. His father had called me used goods. He thought his son could do better, and should try to get his ex-wife back. Clearly I wasn't on his level or caliber, having had a child with another man. This was something to be looked down upon.

I was incensed. This man didn't know me! Who the hell was he to look down his nose at me? Parents of guys I'd dated always loved me! To be written off like that without so much as a conversation was hurtful. And, it wasn't anything I'd ever seen before. My parents have always been warm and welcoming to those I'd dated. I just didn't get it.

Then he told me about his father.

He had been a pilot in the Air Force. Then he flew for American Airlines. He was a ladies man. He cheated on his wife, my ex's mother, more than once. He was degrading and belittling to her. He eventually left her for a younger flight attendant whom he married and also degraded and belittled. He was aggressive and horrible to his two older sons...but supposedly never to my ex, his youngest son. But my ex saw how he treated his family and others in his life. He saw him lose good friends and alienate this family.

It was never clear whether there was physical abuse to my ex's mother, or to the younger flight attendant, or to the brothers. But it was clear that at the very least, emotional abuse was rampant. Although it was never called that either.

It was just that his father was a raging asshole. The term abuse was never used.

My ex said he wasn't like his father. He said his sensibilities and sensitivity were much more like his mother. That he was docile and kind and nurturing. Like her.

I believed him.

Back to the sociopath email. At some point within the first several months--after the phone conversation where his father had rejected me--he showed me an email he had sent his father. He went to bat for me. He stood up for me against this man who had just strong opinions about a woman with a child who was dating his son.

The father called him manipulative. Divisive. A person who does things for others only as a means to get something in return. A person without conscience and empathy. A user. He said he wanted nothing to do with him.

He was describing his son as a sociopath.

You know what? My ex called the email PROJECTION--that his father was calling him those things because that's what HE really was.

Remembering that email makes my head hurt.

Was the father really abusive? Did things really happen the way I was told they did? My ex certainly emulated his father, often bragged about his professional achievements and personal conquests. So is the father a sociopath, too, and his son followed in his footsteps?

My guess? Yes. Absolutely.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Time When He Got Me to Remove My Signature Mole

You know how Cindy Crawford has a signature mole? Well, I had one, too. It was on the side of my nose. I actually always liked it. I thought it gave my face some character. It wasn't outrageously large or anything. In fact, when I lived in LA in mid-90s, I had head shots done; the photographer actually enhanced it. He said it was a cool feature on my face.

Not according to my ex.

Very early on, he asked me if I ever thought about having the mole on my nose removed, as well as two on my left breast. I'd had a passing thought about the ones on my breast because they were visible when I wore a bikini (sigh...vanity), but I liked the one on my nose. I told him so.

He told me that my face was so beautiful, but all his eyes focused on was the mole. And what a shame that was. He indicated that I would be much prettier if I had it removed.

"I had so many moles on my face. I had a bunch removed," he said. "It's no big deal and looks so much better."

As for the ones on my breast...he pretty much told me that they were unsightly. Very unattractive. That at the very least, if I didn't get the one on my nose removed, I should definitely get the ones on my breast lopped off. He encouraged me to make an appointment with a dermatologist to consult about it.

I did. My ex went with me.

The doctor said there was no real medical reason to remove the moles. That they weren't of concern from a skin cancer perspective. But, he said if I wanted them removed, he could do it. I told him I was leaning toward having the two on my breast taken off, but was unsure about the one on my nose. My ex piped up, asking how difficult it would be to remove. The doctor said that because of it's location (not a lot of skin), there was a chance for a noticeable scar, so it was up to me if I would be happier with a scar than a mole.

My ex started in. A small scar would be better. My face would look so much prettier without the mole. It was so distracting. And so on and so on.

Needless to say, I agreed.

The moles were removed about a week later. He came with me. The two on the breast were no big deal. The one on my nose? I almost passed out. It hurt so badly. I could feel the removal and the stitches pulling through. I had tears going down my face. A piece of me was literally being removed and I wished I could stop it but it was too late.

We went on vacation to a resort in Mexico not too long after the mole removal.  The small scar that I "might have" on my nose? Try a gaping hole as it healed. The stitches opened up and a wide scar formed. It took a long time to look normal.

See for yourselves.

Control. It was all about control. Sometimes I wonder how much of it was to see what he could get me to do. How far he could push the requests/demands and how much I would bend. Encouraging me to remove moles so I'd be prettier?! How outrageous is that?!

I read something about abusers/narcissists/sociopaths not too long ago. It said that these people are so charming, so attractive, so dynamic, you just want them to like you. I know that's part of what it was. I just wanted him to like me. I was mesmerized, I was blind, I was smitten.

I wanted to be everything to him, even if that meant making changes to me. I didn't understand yet that I'd never be enough. Because people like my ex suck the life out of you. You twist yourself up in a pretzel to please them, but they're never satisfied.

They are emotional vampires.

And now I have a scar where my pretty mole once was. It's kind of a metaphor actually. I also have internal scars as a result of this relationship--scars on my heart and mind that won't ever be what they once were. 

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Time When He Evaluated My Private Parts

This is embarrassing and so super personal and beyond mortifying, and some may not agree with this level of detail, but <throws hands up in air> here it goes. This is my blog and my story.

He made me feel insecure about a very, VERY private thing: my body.

I'll never in my life forget where I was and how I felt when this was said to me.

I was standing in his room, near the dresser. I had just showered and was wearing a robe. I'd untied the robe, with the intention of getting dressed, so it was hanging open. He was standing in the doorway to the bathroom, looking at me.

"Has it always looked like that?" he asked, his eyes on my lower half.

I didn't understand what he was talking about at first. I thought he meant my stomach.

"Well, I mean it has never been perfect but there's a little extra skin after being pregnant..."

"No. I mean your vajayjay," he said. He always called it that. It was super creepy and super gross.

I. wanted. to. die.

I felt my face get hot. "What do you mean?!"

He shrugged. "I dunno. It just looks...different...from other women's I've seen. I figured it looks like that because you've had a baby."

I just blinked, dumbfounded. He wasn't the first man I'd dated in the three years after my divorce and meeting him. I hadn't heard anything like this before.

Was I hearing this correctly?!?

"I...I'm not really sure what you mean..." I stammered.

"It just looks different. I can tell you've had a baby just by looking at it. It feels different, too. I can definitely tell the difference between women who haven't had a baby, like my ex, and you." He said this in a glib and cavalier way.

I remember looking down at myself and feeling so...mortified. I told him that I looked the same now as I did before I had my son, and that I'd never had any other similar comments before him--only that I knew that everyone's bodies are different and no one looks the same.

"Yeah...but I can tell you've had a baby. There's a big difference between women who haven't given birth and women who have. You got really torn up!" He said this with pity.

As if my son had done this to me.


I can honestly say that I've never felt more unattractive in my life. I don't clearly remember how the conversation ended. I think I just shrugged it off or changed the subject. But inside I wanted to curl up in a ball.

Of course now I know what this sociopath was doing. By making me feel insecure about a very intimate area, he was trying to make me feel grateful that he was willing to be with me despite this egregious flaw.

When I was pregnant with our child, he asked the OB/Gyn if I could have an extra stitch after the birth. He asked that more than once.

Such evil. I was faced with such evil and I didn't even know it.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Time When He Made Me Lose My Male Friends

The damage he caused in my co-parenting relationship--due to jealousy and control issues--was bad. But, he also didn't want me to have any male friends in general.

He couched it in "protectiveness" with manipulative compliments. That he "knew how men thought." That I was "so hot and so nice" he didn't want me to be taken advantage of. That men "just want to fuck."

He told me a story about a conversation his father purportedly had with him and his ex-wife when they were first dating, encouraging them both to not have friends of the opposite sex. That it just leads to trouble. That there's no reason to have friends of the opposite sex once you're in a relationship. That it only makes your partner feel uncomfortable and threatened.

I remember telling him that I didn't think that made much sense. I argued that it didn't matter if every male friend I had wanted to get in my pants--I have a say in whether that happens or not. And I certainly didn't have that sort of interest in my male friends, so what was the big deal? Relationships are about trust. I told him I trusted him.

After all, his "best friend" was a female.

That's right. His best friend was a female whom I embraced from the very start, and by whom I did not feel threatened. I didn't insist that we not hang out with her, that he not text her or communicate with her. However, I was not afforded the same level of trust and respect.

He "urged" me to take down my Myspace profile. I did it. I wanted to prove my loyalty to him. I thought maybe if I did that, he'd see how serious I was about him. But that wasn't enough. He wanted to see my emails. He wanted to know if any man at any time contacted me.

One time not too long after I'd moved in, I was bathing my son and had left my email account open. I had nothing to hide. I didn't even think twice about it. Suddenly he appeared in the bathroom.

"Who is Alex Brady*?" he asked.

"A former co-worker and friend...why?"

"You had lunch with him the week after we met? Did you fuck him?" he demanded.

"No! He's married! I've known him since like 1998!"

"Why didn't you tell me about this 'lunch?'" He made those air quotes, as if I wasn't telling the truth.

"I don't know! You and I had just met. There was nothing to tell!"

"I don't want you talking to him. If he's married, he definitely wants to fuck you. If he contacts you again, I want to know."

The conversation didn't end there. He could never just let it drop. He made little comments about Alex for months afterward. Wanted to know details about what I knew about this guy and his life. He'd ask me many different ways about whether anything physical had ever happened. I had a guilty feeling over something that had never happened!

It really is the most frustrating feeling in the world to be accused of something you didn't do. I truly felt that he didn't believe me that I hadn't slept with this guy.

And, actually, Alex did email me subsequently. But you know what? I did NOT tell him about it. I deleted the email, and then deleted it out of my trash. That's how it went. I knew an email would create an "issue" between us, so it was easier to just delete. I was asked often if I'd received any communications from men. I always said no.

Eventually I gave him the passwords to my email accounts, thinking that would prove I loved him and only him and had nothing to hide.

No amount of reassurance was ever...I mean EVER...enough. Not ever.

*Real name has been changed.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why I Feel like an Asshole

I need to get this out there. I can't bottle it in anymore.

I feel like an asshole. I really do.

My life has been destroyed. Financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. My children's lives have been forever affected. They have their own struggles/issues now, which will likely impact their adulthoods as a direct result of this. My family is traumatized. There is steaming wreckage all around me.

I'm not sure that I fully forgive myself--or how I ever can. I'm not looking for pity or reassurance. I'm just being real.

I re-read my blog entries. On what planet was I living that these things were happening and I didn't run?

I've read about abuse. I've read about sociopaths. I've talked with therapists. I've talked with fellow survivors. I understand how I got pulled in and tricked by a very cunning and "talented" abusive sociopath.

But what was going on with me internally at that time that made me so lethally vulnerable to a predator like him? How incredibly low must my self-worth and self-esteem have been? How did I allow a man to so easily and swiftly gain control over my life?!

I want to say that I wasn't a stupid or weak person but...maybe I was. Because it was incredibly naïve of me to believe that no one would ever intentionally bring harm to me. But I think on some level I actually thought I was exempt from that somehow. Because I'm a good person who wouldn't want to intentionally and systematically destroy someone else's life, that also couldn't happen to me.

Besides, I know a "bad guy" when I meet him. Right? Bad guys are very obvious. They wear their assholeishness on their sleeves and I don't put up with bullshit anyway...

I guess what it comes down to is this: I was vulnerable because I had succeeded in everything else in my life except romantic relationships. I had an established editorial career at that point, good mommy, lots of friends, close with my family. But I had two failed marriages. I'd married and divorced my college sweetheart in my 20s, married and divorced my older son's father in my early- to mid-30s. I never took a breath to say maybe I needed to be on my own for awhile and not define myself by a man/relationship/marriage. Those divorces were tough, for different reasons. But I wasn't taking time to figure out why they didn't work, or to fully heal from them.

I was focused on the fact that I'd failed--and on not failing again.

And not failing again meant finding the perfect guy and having a successful relationship.

So maybe--secretly--I went on Match to find a husband. Maybe--secretly--I didn't like being alone.

Maybe, actually definitely, those reasons combined made me vulnerable to him. It's like wearing blinders. I saw what I wanted to see. Deep down, very deep, I do believe I recognized all those early behaviors as odd. But it wasn't enough to make me run. No. Because the package was so perfect. He was exactly what I was looking for.

What could go wrong?

Yes. I feel like an asshole.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Time When He Targeted My Co-Parenting Relationship

I'd been divorced for about three years before I met him. My ex, my older son's father, and I had gotten to a pretty decent place during that time where we were successfully co-parenting. We had taken him to a few monster truck shows together, sometimes had dinner together with him, and communicated about him in effective and positive ways. I'm not saying there was never conflict, but we had worked hard to get to that place.

Drama was minimal at that point.

I think I can pinpoint the moment that my ex became a real problem in the eyes of my abuser. It was probably within the first month.

We were in a store and my cell rang. It was my ex, who was at a concert. They were doing a cover of Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere." When we were together, I used to do the entire rap for his little girls. He'd called so I could hear it. I laughed and said something like, "Awesome! Have a great time!" I may have shrugged and made a "wtf" face.

But what I remember clearly was his face. He was not happy. Not at all.

The "blank empty" came into his eyes.

"What did he want?" he demanded.

"He was just calling from some concert. They're playing a rap I know all the words to." For some reason, I wanted to move on to another topic quickly. I could feel the tension rising.

"Well why is he calling you? He's still in love with you. Why do you answer his calls? Are you still in love with him?!" and on and on came the interrogation.

From that moment on, he was on a mission to drive a wedge between my ex and me. He began making constant comments about him being a "tool" and a "dork" and a "retard." He cut down his looks, his intelligence. He said that I shouldn't be friendly or even civil/cordial toward him. That it should be "all business" and matter of fact, and absolutely no more activities together with our child. That was not appropriate...unless I was still in love with him. Otherwise, I had a boyfriend now, and that should end. I shouldn't see his girls anymore either. We were divorced and they shouldn't be a part of my life. That only showed I was still attached. And buying the other parent a small birthday present for our son to give? Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts? All of which we had exchanged in previous years, for the benefit of our son, so he could give gifts? Also not appropriate. I had moved on and gift-giving, even if it was technically being handed over by the child, should be stopped. He wanted to see any emails I received from my ex, and insisted on being involved in responding to them. He would ask me often if I received any. I'm a bad liar. "My" emails went from friendly to flat and even somewhat combative in a very short time.

I know it sounds like I didn't stand up to him about any of these things. I really did, especially the gift-giving. I sent him links to articles about divorce and children, where experts said it's absolutely appropriate for ex-spouses to buy small gifts to give each other that the children would present. I argued with him that we were teaching our son the importance of recognizing others on their special day, etc. Nothing I said mattered. I think at some point I thought it was just easier to do it his way.

Besides, he said HE would buy gifts for my son to give me.

But the worst part was that he began to disparage my ex in front of my son. That was one I didn't back down on, but it never stopped him. He called him a "retard" often in front of my son. I'd admonish him, saying that it wasn't good for my son, that it's still his father, that he needed to not say such things in front of him. He'd then accuse me of still being in love with my ex because I was defending him. He said I must be, or I wouldn't care what he said. I explained over and over that it wasn't that at all. "I left him 3 years before I met you," I said. "I obviously had moved on or I would have gotten back with him in the first place." Accusing me of still being in love was deflecting my point, which was don't talk badly about my child's father in front of my child. Hell, or in front of me! I wasn't the one bringing him up all the time.

It didn't matter. The comments continued. All the way to the end.

And sadly, to this day, my co-parenting relationship with my ex, I fear, is irreparable. And, his daughters hate me for cutting them out. I can't blame them. They're in late high school and early college now. Young women.

Probably the perfect candidates to hear my story about abuse.

But back to the point: I was so bent on "proving my love" to him, that I didn't see all the collateral damage that was happening in my wake...and how long-term the effects would be. And the guilt I would carry. Likely lifelong.

But that's what sociopaths do! They systematically chip away at their victims' relationships so they become more and more isolated...and dependent on them. This would be the first of many.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Time When He Told Me He'd Stalked His Ex-Wife

It's true. He stalked his ex-wife. And, sadly, when he told me what he'd done--he was smug and bragging about it--I didn't see the underlying message: if you leave me, I'll do the same thing to you.

We were out on his back patio sharing some wine and he launched into a tale about how he had "gotten back" at his ex-wife, who had left him less than a year before I met him.

He said she had cheated on him. He had confronted her, an argument ensued, and she left the house in the middle of the night. She had come back the next day with cops to get her belongings. He was upset that she had taken all the expensive jewelry he had bought for her.

Sound familiar?

But I felt badly for him. She had cheated on him, after all. "How could any sane woman cheat on this amazing catch of a guy?!" I'd wondered. I mean, how dramatic and over-reacting was it to come back with cops to get her things?? She was crazy. Oh, and as I mentioned in my first post, he also said she had abused him physically during the marriage. So she was crazy and violent. Oh, and he also said she had a drinking problem. And mixed Ambien with alcohol. So she was crazy and violent and a drunk drug addict.

This poor guy, mixed up with a woman like that!

He told me that after she left, a buddy of his through the military--a CIA agent--had bugged her car for him. He was able to log onto his computer and track her whereabouts. He said she had been going to a hotel frequently, the assumption being she was meeting up with her married commander whom she was fucking. He said he could have them both court martialed, but he was too nice a guy to ruin her military career. 

The bug on the car also showed him where she had moved to. A gated apartment complex. He said one night, after an evening of wine consumption, he took Ambien to sleep. But at some point in the night, he woke up, GPSed her address, got on his motorcycle, and went there. He wanted to take back the sound system he had installed in her car, as well as the Garmin GPS he had so generously given her.

He said it was fuzzy because of the Ambien, but that he remembered being faced with a 6 foot wall when he got there. His adrenalin was pumping so high that he was able to scale it and hop over. He broke into her car and ripped the sound equipment out, along with the Garmin.

"She didn't have you arrested?!" I asked.

He snorted. No. She probably suspected it but couldn't prove it was him anyway. Besides, those were HIS things. He had bought them for her and he wanted them back, however he had to get them. She was an ungrateful bitch who didn't appreciate all he had done for her. It was his right to take back what was his! 

"Oh yeah, I got her back good another way," he said. He chuckled, recalling that he had loosened all the nuts and bolts on her mountain bike when she asked for it back. That way, maybe she'd get hurt while using it.

You may be asking yourselves how alarms didn't sound off in my head when hearing these tales. It's all about delivery with sociopaths. As I re-tell it here, the narcissism and sociopathy is so glaringly obvious, however, at the time, I was only vaguely familiar with what a narcissist even was, and only in a very general sense (self-absorbed). When a sociopath tells a story, it's presented in such a way that it sounds completely normal coming out of their mouths, no matter how outrageously tall the tale is. I don't know how else to put it.

I was captivated by him. On some level, I knew it was bizarre--even criminal--that he had tracked her, that he had broken into her car. But on another level, as much as it grosses me out and pains me to admit it now, I found his "take charge, take no shit" attitude...attractive. <cringe>

There was another very important--and disturbing--tale he told me later about her...the day after we were married.

But that's for another blog.

Sociopath Checklist

Below is the very first list I'd ever seen about sociopathic behavior. I highlighted the behaviors he displayed in the above blog--his thought process, his sense of entitlement, his lack of empathy, his lack of morals and values, his cold and calculated vindictiveness. Sociopaths are terrifying. If you encounter anyone showing ANY of these behaviors, RUN. Immediately! 

• Glibness and Superficial Charm

• Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible.
They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

• Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

• Pathological Lying
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities.
Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

• Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

• Shallow Emotions
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

• Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge.
Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

• Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

• Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

• Irresponsibility/Unreliability
Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.


Friday, August 8, 2014

The Time When He Bought Me Stuff...Lots of Stuff

I've been thinking a lot about financial abuse.

I have spent so much of my time thinking about and healing from the emotional/psychological abuse--and obviously the physical pain and recovery from being shot by someone I once loved and trusted.

But there is a big financial abuse component to my story.

Part I: Showing Me the Good Life

I've mentioned before that I was a single mom with my older son when I met him. I pretty much lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I lived within my means, but with the high standard of living in the DC area, I didn't have a whole lot extra left over each month to go shopping, take vacations, etc. I wasn't strapped but definitely wasn't rolling in it either.

I had what I needed. I shared a townhouse with another single mom friend of mine and her kids. I had a car. I had clothes for myself and my son. We were doing just fine.

The most important thing I DIDN'T have was debt. I'd made mistakes in my 20s with credit card debt and had dug myself out of it, so by my early 30s, I was in good shape again. I didn't have a credit card; I was living off of my salary and the child support I received.

Then I met him.

We went on trips within the first few months. A trip to LA to see his military friends; a trip to Atlanta to see my dear childhood friend; a trip to a resort in Mexico (he bought my wedding ring there, along with tons of other jewelry). I was thrilled! I hadn't been out of town unless it was for work. I hadn't been on vacation in years. And he paid for it all!

I'd hit the jackpot!

The gifts began pouring in quickly. That birthstone bracelet and more jewelry (2-carat diamond earrings!...a 2-carat solitaire pendent!), then name brand shoes, then Coach purses, then entire shopping sprees for new clothes. "Buy anything you want," he'd said at Nordstrom.

So you see what he was doing. He was upgrading my life. He was upgrading ME!

He never outright said that I needed improvement, but judging by how quickly he bought those items, my appearance clearly wasn't up to par. I had a no-name purse, no-name shoes, costume jewelry, a sufficient but not flashy wardrobe. Well and the other thing is, he never asked me my shoe size or whether I wanted new shoes...or new purses or new clothes. He just bought what he liked and presented them to me.

At the time, I was grateful.

But also at the time, I didn't catch the other potential financial pitfalls into which he was leading me in his quest to make upgrades.

I drove an affordable Nissan Versa. I was maybe a year, maybe not even a year, into a three year lease. After a few months of dating, he talked me into upgrading to a sporty 2-door Honda. Turning my lease in early meant a higher monthly payment for the car. He said he'd help me with that. After less than a year in the Honda, he talked me into an Acura MDX. Yeah. That was significantly more expensive than the Honda. He said he'd help me with that.

I mentioned I was debt-free. He talked me into credit cards to buy furniture and other items for our home on the Army base. We needed new bedroom furniture, new couches, a plasma TV, a dinette set, a king-sized mattress. He said my credit was better than his...because of the thousands he owed for putting his education on credit cards. He said he'd help me pay mine off quickly though.  

I had no reason to think he wouldn't. He loved me. I trusted him. I wanted to make our life and home better, too.

Do you think those debts were paid off?

Oh. And also? He refused to share a bank account after we were married. Unlike other abusers who control financially by taking over a joint account, mine refused to allow me to share. He wanted our money separate, period. I never knew what was going in or coming out of his account. Not ever. He didn't want me seeing what was happening with his money.

I never understood the secrecy. Until later.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Time When I Saw the Mask Come Down

I remember the first time I saw the "real him." It was in the hospital after the motorcycle crash.

The nurse wanted him to get up and walk down the hall with a walker. His leg was in an orthopedic boot. They wanted to keep the blood circulating, get him up and about. I said I'd walk with him, knowing I was going to be the one helping him once we got home.

As an aside: He had no family or friends visit him in the hospital. He was estranged from his father, his mother and step-father didn't come down, no siblings or step-siblings showed up. Only one friend. I found it odd that people in his life didn't bother to be there for him. It was all falling on me. And, again, I'd only known him for 3 months. Red flag? You betcha!

I was walking a couple paces behind him and as he stepped out into the hall, the back of his gown came loose and opened up, exposing his rear end.

He felt the draft.

He turned to look at me.

It was a look I can't forget. Pure disgust.

"You did that on purpose," he sneered.

I just looked at him, confused. "Did what?"

"Let my gown fall open. You're trying to embarrass me."

I went over and tied the gown back up. "No, no! It just fell open as you walked..."

"You think it's funny, don't you? This is all a big joke."
"What are you talking about?" I said. "I didn't untie it!"

"You know what? You can just go the fuck home," he said, getting louder now. "Get the FUCK away from me!"

I felt tears welling up, my face burning. I didn't understand why he was being like this. I hadn't untied the gown. I just wanted to walk with him and help. I remember turning and looking at the nurse. She just looked back at me, with a look of pity. She'd seen the whole thing. I was mortified.

"Do you really want me to leave?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, his eyes blank. Empty. "Get the fuck out of here."


This may sound like nothing to many people. And I guess at the time, as upset as I was, I didn't think it was necessarily beyond the norm. After all, he was in pain and had been in an accident. I did leave the hospital, went outside to get some air. But I didn't go home. I calmed down and went back upstairs and told him I wasn't going to leave him.

He blamed the morphine. He said the drugs made him snap like that. He said he would ask the doctor to change his pain med. The morphine made him do it.

"Yes!" I thought. "Of course! That wasn't really him. The drugs made him react that way!"

With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, however, he had let down the mask to reveal his true self. And, in retrospect, what was beneath was sinister.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Time When He Got in a Motorcycle Crash

I got the call around midnight on Oct. 1, 2007.

The man on the line said, "Is this Kate? There's been an accident."

He said he was on the side of the road with my boyfriend, who had asked him to call me. He said he had crashed his motorcycle and was in bad shape. I asked if he was kidding, and he said he couldn't be more serious. The ambulance hadn't even gotten there yet. The man promised to call me back with details.

I sat on the stairs, shaking and crying. I'd only been dating him for 3 months. I'd finally met the man of my dreams, and now I might lose him??

Just my luck.

A police officer called and told me he had broken a lot of bones but was stable and being flown to the hospital. I rushed to be by his bedside. The doctor discussed the injuries--two broken arms, compound fracture in the leg, plates would be needed, broken fingers. I passed out. Literally. The descriptions of the injuries, the stress, the whole scene made me woozy. We laughed because I was put in a bed right next to him with my legs elevated.

I took a week off of work to stay by his side. He had multiple surgeries. I was there. He was in pain. I was there. He needed to be fed. I was there.

I didn't even think twice. That's what you do when you love someone and he almost dies.

You're probably wondering how he crashed. He said he was riding home on the Beltway and it was a dark area and all of a sudden there were cars stopped on the middle of the highway. He crashed into the back of a minivan and flew completely over it.

How he lived was mind-boggling. So lucky! And thank God he made it...right?

You'll Never Guess what Happened Next

His hospital stay was winding down. The nurses all loved us, thought we were the cutest couple ever.

I remember sitting by his bed and we were talking about how lucky he was, that he really could've died. He looked at me and asked if I'd run back home to get something for him and bring it back. He said he had something for me. He said it was a small box and told me exactly where it was located in his closet.

It's probably not hard to guess that the little box was one in which jewelry comes. My mind was reeling. I thought, "Maybe it's earrings? A pretty birthstone ring to match the bracelet he gave me?"

When I got back, he told me to sit on the edge of his bed and open the box. It's probably not hard to guess that a diamond engagement ring sat in that little box. Two-carat solitaire. He said he loved me. He said he had been planning to ask when we went on our vacation to Mexico...but that he knew he wanted to ask right away. He had cheated death. I was there for him, at his side the whole time. He said he knew I was a keeper.

He asked me to marry him. I said yes.

I'd known him for 3 months.


I know what you're thinking. "Girl, you only knew him for 3 months! Slow it down! What's the rush?" and so on.

All I can say is that I was on board the fast moving train. Full throttle. I thought it was romantic. I thought he must love me very much and not want to let me slip away somehow. I felt the same way about him. I figured, hey, we're not getting any younger, we are on the same page and know what we want...and quite simply, I was smitten.

More on the rushed relationship later. :)

Back to the accident: The entire situation felt...chaotic. I have a very strong hunch about that accident, one that I'll share in the book. After the trial. For now, I will say that from all the reading I've done about sociopaths, they thrive on risk-taking and chaos.

Being the trustful and caring person I am, I clung to the happiness that he lived, not noticing the subtle manipulation that was happening at that very moment...

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Time When I Met an Air Force Officer Online

Summer 2007. I was 34-years-old and a single mom with my older son, who was 3-1/2 at the time. I’d been single since 2004, had dated some, but nothing had really worked out. I decided to join I just wanted to go out on some dates, have fun, get out of the house.

I remember scrolling through the men and just kind of haphazardly “winking” at everyone I thought was cute. I wasn’t taking it seriously at all. I wasn’t even really reading the profiles; it was that shallow of an exercise, but I was having fun with it.

I absolutely remember his photo, even now. He was strikingly handsome. Dressed in casual pants and a loose button down. Appeared to be someplace warm. His features looked like a movie star’s. And all his other photos were equally as dazzling. A very fit guy, big round blue eyes. It pains me to even admit this, given everything that happened.

He responded to my wink with a written note. I was honestly surprised. I went back to read his profile: 37, no kids, officer in the Air Force (I swooned). We messaged back and forth on Match a few times, then traded emails, then phone numbers. He asked me out pretty quickly. He showed up at my door with flowers. I couldn’t believe how attractive he was. However…this I remember. When I opened the door, he had this huge, overly-whitened toothy grin and said, “Hiiiiiiiiiii…I’m (his name)” and I don’t know how else to describe it other than the tone of his voice and the way he spoke sounded so…creepy and fake. I can still hear it in my head. I thought his voice was weird. But he was handsome and had flowers and I quickly brushed it off. He took me to sushi and we ate a ton and drank wine and talked and talked and the way he looked at me…stared at me…I felt like the most beautiful girl in the world.

The Very Early Months

All I can say is that it progressed very fast. The speed of the relationship, I mean. Like other survivors’ stories I’ve read, I definitely was flattered. I thought he just adored me and wanted to be around me as much as possible. He bought me jewelry by the second date—a bracelet with my birth stones (he remembered it was October…squeal!), then came a new expensive purse (the Coach bags came later), several new pairs of Michael Kors sandals (the correct size because he’d looked). I mean, I know I’m a catch and all (LOL!) but I still felt somewhat…God, is honored the right word??...that a guy who looked as good as he did, and who was an officer in the military, was interested in a single mom. He was only married once before (to a fellow female officer who, according to him, was bipolar, had abused him—broke his ribs with a wine bottle, broke a toe stomping on his foot, put holes in walls—and who had cheated on him), had no children, was 39-turning-40 but looked much younger…

Oh wait, did you catch that? In the previous post I said his profile said 37. Well. That was the first lie. About 2 weeks into talking/starting to date, he admitted to me that he had lied about his age. That he was really turning 40 in just a few weeks. He said he put 37 on his profile to skew the responses toward early-mid 30s women. He said when he put 39, “older women” in their 40s and 50s responded to him. I bought it. Completely. Like without hesitation. At the time, it made sense. It was believable. Or maybe I wanted it to be believable. Either way…I shrugged off that first lie.

He took me on a trip in the first two months to Los Angeles to see his [only] friend who was stationed there. We had a great time. Nothing really weird happened. Well, except that before we left, he’d told me that this couple always wanted to swing with him and his ex-wife, and that they wanted a 3-way with him…but that I shouldn’t worry about anything. He wouldn’t let anything like that happen. I remember being watchful while I was there. They were delightful, actually…very kind. I’m sure he was full of crap; I’m sure he said that so I’d be reminded of how desirable he was. And there was one other thing. The four of us were going out to dinner and he was driving. We were on PCH and there was a lot of traffic and his friends and I were just laughing and joking around and I looked over at him. His face was stern and there was just this look in his eyes that is hard to describe. Sinister? I definitely noted it because I can still see the look in my mind. I asked him if he was ok and he grumbled about the traffic. I know it sounds like nothing at all—people get pissed off when driving in traffic. All I can say is the look in his eyes wasn’t like any look I’d seen in other people. I don’t know what darkness was going on inside him, but it was there.

Before I get into the motorcycle crash he got into in our 3rd month of dating—yes, yes that happened and is a whole section in itself—I’ll leave with this anecdote. Not many know this (breathe, breathe). It’s hard because it’s probably THE single biggest warning sign that I needed to run the F away from him as fast as I could…but I didn’t. I’m not a dumb girl, and it just eats at me that I didn’t see the danger. Ok. It was probably one of the first times, if not THE first time, I spent the night at his house. It was a work night, we just chilled, had a couple glasses of wine, no big deal. Woke up the next morning, had some breakfast, and he drove me home. He was driving and I was looking at the road and all of a sudden, everything started getting very fuzzy. Like, I couldn’t focus. In my head, I was thinking maybe it was a hangover coming on. I didn’t say anything to him about how weird I was feeling. I didn’t really want to make a big deal about it. He dropped me at my place, I know I went in alone, but I can tell you that the entire day is blacked out. I remember small snippets of just lying on my bed. I started “coming to” toward the late afternoon. I should’ve been freaking the F out, right?!? I should’ve been like HE DRUGGED ME, WHAT THE F?!?! But I didn’t react that way. I talked to him later that night and told him about the weird feeling that came on during the car ride home. He said in a very nonchalant way that he had given me an Ambien the night before when we went to sleep and probably the pill got stuck in my throat and went down when I stood up in the morning. Are you ready? I bought it. I. BOUGHT. IT. Come on, Kate! This part is really hard for me, guys. I don’t know if it was Ambien or something else but it really kind of doesn’t matter—he drugged me. And I didn’t run. Help me get past this part because I’m still very hung up on it to this day.   

Bonus: Other Very Early Warning Signs
--Immaculately clean house. Of course there are people who have extremely clean houses. But he was a bachelor and—I don’t know—it was perfect. Too perfect.
--He fake tanned and whitened his teeth. Often. I’ve never met a guy before or after him who was THAT vain. It made me uncomfortable.
--He compulsively online shopped. UPS or FedEx delivered multiple boxes to his house. Daily. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
--He bragged about so many women wanting him.
--He bragged about all the guys he worked with wanting to be like him, how enormously respected he was.
--He was supposed to deploy to Iraq (he never did, but that’s a later-on detail) and began talking about me waiting for him (I thought it was romantic but it was bizarre…we’d only known each other maybe 6-8 weeks).
--He left photos of himself and his ex-wife around to try to make me jealous.

Looking back, of course these are odd behaviors that show manipulation and control, but would most people make the leap to red flags of emotional abuse?


That's why I'm here. To teach you what I learned.