Deconstructing Abusive Behavior

Kind of thought about updating yesterday, but I couldn’t find the spoons. In fact, I almost didn’t post today, either. Basically, things didn’t go according to plan, and I’m even more grateful for that deacon in the morning. If he hadn’t started our day off on a pleasant note, I’m not sure we wouldn’t have made it.

First of all, food didn’t happen. Cooked food, that is. I learned a very valuable lesson about wattage instead. We can plug our laptops into the power inverter, which was another big thing we needed it for. And we can run our blender on the low setting. But the hot plate is too powerful. The inverter just won’t.

Well, I wasn’t going to give up that easily, not after Kate has been on starvation rations for a month. I decided to make a camping stove out of a spam can. By the way, don’t do that. Use a soup can or something. But the spam can was all we had, and I was determined to make do.

The catholic church where we sleep now was busy, so we went back to the Pentecostal church. It’s exposed to the road, but empty of people. It put in some coals and receipts and lit it up, but the wind was too powerful. It kept blowing it out. I tried to use the car door as a wind screen, but it did nothing.

But while we were standing there, Kate’s mother pulled into the spot next to us. I don’t know how she found us. I’m praying it was just a coincidence, but she had our mail. My mail, specifically, which she had opened. Because she just can’t not butt her nose into my personal affairs. She kept asking if we were all right, and trying to touch my shoulder and completely ignoring our social cues, like me being hostile and Kate refusing to get out of the car.

OK, if you’ve never dealt with an abuser, you’re probably now thinking, “Gee, Car Dweller, that doesn’t sound so bad. She cares about you. Why so hostile?”

  1. She opened my mail. Specifically, she opened my car insurance bill. That kind of thing can be innocuous in other families; hell, I open Kate’s mail sometimes. But in an abusive household, there’s a certain disrespect for personal space and boundaries. In an abusive household, your business is the family’s business. You aren’t allowed personal mail. You aren’t allowed your own room.

    In fact, living in their home, that was another thing we had to contend with. Kate’s mother (hereafter, just KMom) went wherever she pleased. It didn’t matter if you were naked and screaming at her to get out, she’d yell back “I was just getting something/cleaning up/whatevering!” And she’d do that without backing out or closing the door, staring right at you as you tried to cover yourself.

    And God forbid Kate was having a seizure. KMom would slam open the door, frequently causing the seizure, then start screaming and acting hurt, like Kate was being completely irrational and had started seizing just to punish her.

    So KMom opening my mail was yet another incident in a long line of her disrespecting my boundaries.

  2. KMom opening my mail was disrespecting my autonomy. I’m 35 years old. Kate is 28. I may need financial help on occasion. I do not need someone treating me like a child who hasn’t learned how to take care of the family pet. Because make no mistake, that’s exactly what she was doing.

    This is another common abuse tactic called infantilization. It’s designed to make sure the victim stays dependent. As long the victim feels like they’re a child, they won’t stray too far from the “adult” authority. It gives the abuser a sense of power.

    See, abuse doesn’t come from a position of hatred. When you hate something, you just want it to go away. I think that might be why people get so confused about abuse, actually. They hear about how victims are treated and can’t understand how this could have happened. If the victim lived with their abuser for so long, there must have been love there. Right? So maybe something is wrong with the victim.

    Love doesn’t matter. It might be there. It might not. Frequently, the type of person who abuses doesn’t know how to feel love. They only know they need that control to make themselves feel good, and so they’ll do whatever it take to keep the victim from leaving.

  3. Because abusers need control and lack respect for boundaries and personal autonomy, questions such as “How are you?” are usually masturbatory in nature. They don’t want to hear that you’re doing good. They want to hear whining. They want to hear that you’re doing awful without them and won’t they please take you back.

    KMom asked me four times how we were doing. Each time, I said we were fine in increasingly hostile tones. The third time is when she tried to touch me. Just got up real close, like we were intimate, and tried to put her hand on my shoulder. I don’t remember if she succeeded or not. When I noticed, I turned to move it out of reach, but I was wearing a thick winter coat, and I’m not sure if I noticed in time.

    She had to keep asking because I wasn’t giving her the answer she wanted to hear.

    (Also, you might notice her invading my space and trying to touch my shoulder is a callback to point 1, about disrespecting personal space and boundaries.)

  4. At some point, I think it was after the second “how are you,” she handed me the mail and informed me that it was my car insurance bill, and could I afford to take care of it. Keep in mind, this is the bill that she opened.

    Combine everything I’ve said so far: disrespect for boundaries, disrespect for autonomy, need to infantilize and control the victim.

    Asking if I could take care of my bill didn’t have anything to do with being worried about me. She wanted me to ask her to take care of it because she needed to control me. She needed me to need her help. If she was worried, she could have called. I haven’t been answering her calls, but she’s only tried twice. I’m notorious for not answering my phone or remembering to return messages, and she knows that. We’ve lived together for about six years.

    Instead, she carried them around in her car until the day before the letter said my insurance would be canceled for nonpayment just so that she could ambush me with it. The timing is very important here, too. She thought she’d find me desperate for help. Instead, I already had it taken care of. And when I told her that, her face fell. Her whole posture changed. That’s when she stepped in close to try and assert control in another way.

I told her we wanted to be alone, and she about-faced and went back to her car. No goodbye. Not even an acknowledgement at what I said. Just cold silence.

Kate spent the rest of the day in a panic. She had an initial sprinting seizure and violent thoughts for hours afterward. This happened in the early afternoon, but Kate was still self-harming (beating herself in the head with a fist) right up until we fell asleep. She’s doing better today, but we’re both still paranoid. We both keep looking over our shoulders.

We’re never going back to that parking lot probably. In fact, we’ve changed grocery stores and are thinking of changing storage units as well. I have it on good authority that I should get a restraining order now, and I’m seriously considering it. There’s a part of me that still thinks this wasn’t enough to warrant one, but if she hunted us down once, she’ll do it again. He says preemptive is better, and I’m inclined to agree.


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Love is All You Need

And unfortunately, it’s in short supply. I’ve talked before about the hierarchy of needs. You have physiological needs (food, water, sleep), safety, love, esteem (feeling like you’ve done something that matters), and self-actualization (you have achieved your dreams and won at life forever). It looks a bit like this. Most people live somewhere between love and self-actualization, and self-actualization is the hardest to achieve. But when you’re homeless, you’re doing good to stay on the bottom level.

Kate and I live on the safety level. We struggle with food sometimes (the end of last month was a pretty good example), but we’re not worried about starving. If worst absolutely comes to worst, we can go back to her abusive parents and get money. We’ll do everything we possibly can to avoid that moment, but we’re not going to die.

We’re also not in danger. We spend all day in a library. When we can’t be here, we have two churches, a gym, and a Panera Bread to choose from. We live and sleep in a car, but we have enough blankets and warm clothes that we don’t have to worry about freezing to death.

So love is the level we struggle with. We love each other. We have friends who love us. But the rest of the country hates us. We’re homeless, and that makes us automatically criminals in a lot of people’s eyes. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never done anything wrong. One infraction is all it takes for people to condemn us.

I think I’ve mentioned our storage unit before. If not, we have one, which we pay $100 a month. The place is quiet and has a bathroom, so we spent time there on occasion. Until today, when the gentleman who works there lectured us about this isn’t out personal bathroom and we need to stop sleeping there (Kate was the only one sleeping; I was on my phone.) He informed us that we’d been spoken to about this before and refused to listen when I said we had not. I said it wouldn’t happen again, and he continued to lecture us for like two fucking minutes.

There are at least two homeless families living on the third floor of that building. A bag lady comes through with a shopping cart every single morning that we’re there. And someone is illegally storing gasoline near our unit. But we’re the criminals because we thought paying $100 every fucking months meant we could occasionally use the bathroom or sit quietly in the parking lot to watch a movie.

This is not the first place we’ve been kicked out of. McDonald’s has done it twice. Apparently, you’re not allowed to sit and eat your food in their dining room. You have to be out in 15 minutes. Take too long, even if you’re the only customer, and you risk getting kicked out. Dunkin Donuts did it once: same deal, though a little more understandable since they don’t have a proper dining room. Even our gym coach, who told us point blank that he wanted to do anything he could to help before we ever asked, told us we had to stop cooking there because someone complained about a smell.

This country needs to rethink its attitude towards homeless people. I am not a criminal. I am not trying to scam the system. I just want a place to unwind after work like everyone else. And you know what? I’m not even asking you to give me that. I just need you to stop taking it away whenever I find it.


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A Typical Doctor Visit

Today, I wanted to talk about why it’s so difficult for Kate to get help with her seizures. It seems like it should be a simple thing, right? But for a long time, we didn’t even know they were seizures. We only knew that she would flip out and start running. It was a good couple years before we realized (and yes, she didn’t realize either) that she wasn’t doing on purpose because she was pissed.

Our first neurologist was a 90-year-old man with a stubborn streak that bordered on denial. He told Kate she had myasthenia gravis and put her some pills for it. He said take half of one every day and started scheduling her for tests. He acted like this was the case that would make his career.

Every single test came back negative, and the pills stopped working once the initial placebo effect wore off. But the doctor insisted that didn’t mean anything, that myasthenia gravis hardly ever showed up in tests, and we should keep doing everything he said.

It took months of tests and pills and wasted money before the guy finally sent us to a myasthenia gravis specialist he knew. The specialist informed us that Kate should have been taking like four to six pills everyday, and also if all these tests were coming back negative, Kate absolutely did not have myasthenia gravis.

We went back to her family doctor at that point. He had previously told her that she had mononucleosis, despite not being contagious. He also insisted that she probably had chronic fatigue syndrome, which near as I can figure, is actually not a disease but a catchall term for a collection of symptoms that doctors use when they’re sick of trying to figure out what the problem really is.

He is now insisting that Kate has multiple sclerosis and also CFS and just generally filling her head with paranoia about incurable diseases and making her think her life is over. He’s a blustering bully (also literally a rapist who can’t keep a his hands off his receptionists) who has to be right and refuses to listen, and as I’ve mentioned before, abuse is one of Kate’s seizure triggers. So one day, she just explodes and flees the office, banging into things as she goes. The doctor sends a formal letter to the house refusing to treat her ever again.

Shortly after this, we got hit by a hurricane and had to move in with my family in Missouri. While there, we went to see the neurologist in my home town. The nurse practitioner was a very polite, attentive young fellow who listened very carefully and promised they would do everything they could. The doctor ignored Kate, claimed he couldn’t help, and sent us away.

It was also while in Missouri that we first began to understand how food triggered these episodes. Kate went from barely able to walk even while leaning heavily on a cane to moving freely in about a month.

Also let me just clarify here. Kate was weak, physically. She could barely pull herself out of bed some days. But when a seizure hit, that didn’t matter anymore. She still does something similar, actually. Nearly broke her knee while running because she smashed into a wall and twisted it badly as she fell. Neither weakness nor broken limbs can stop her from running when she has that type of seizure. It’s like a fugue state. She’s not really aware of anything, and her memory will be patchy when she comes back to me.

Anyway, when we finally got back, we saw a doctor who barely spoke English. He was nice enough, but I’m not sure he fully understood the problem. He latched onto the food issue we’d discovered and put us in touch with a handful of new specialists. Kate was tested for allergies, Celiacs, neurological disorders, and I think a couple other thing, but I don’t remember. All negative. In fact, the last specialist we saw listened to Kate’s story and suggested we just try alternative therapies, like controlling her diet as we’d been doing.

By then, we’d done all we could think of, and our primary care physician didn’t have any new ideas. So we just that one specialist’s advice and focused on Kate’s diet. We got her going back to the gym, which helped further. She’d still enter the fugue state, but she’d  come out of it sooner, sometimes without running at all

While there, one of her sparring partners was a med student who was curious about this weird disorder. He told her the fugue state sounded like sn absentee seizure.

We now had a new direction to look in, but Kate wasn’t insured by her dad’s family plan anymore. And he’d been making such a big deal of blaming us both for her seizures and ordering us to see more doctors that the idea of doing so was becoming increasingly stressful. I was having panic attacks, and Kate didn’t want to leave the house except for gym. Even when we got her insurance taken care of, the idea of being jerked around by more doctors was soul crushing.

Then we were homeless. It was like flipping a switch. We didn’t ever have to succumb to their abuse again. Suddenly, everything seemed possible.

We got Kate a new primary care physician, and he was polite and attentive. They tried to do a nerve conductivity test, but Kate started seizing during it. (And the nurse practitioner thpught she was just shivering, but I guess we can’t have everything.) So the doctor gave the name of another specialist.

Now, I honestly can’t remember if I told this part of the story before or not. I’ve told a bunch of people.

Basically, the receptionist rushed Kate through some setup that involved being half naked in a freezing room while wearing only her pants rolled up to the knees and a rough dressing gown. Of course, Kate started seizing. The specialist made her wait for an hour, and then instead of noticing that she was in distress just demanded to know wjy the gown was on the floor. Kate attempted to describe her symptoms and was dismissed. She happened to mention we were living in a car, and the specialist decided that she was  schizophrenic. She told Kate to go to an emergency room because she was clearly having a psychotic break, and that her symptoms must be getting worse or we wouldn’t have been kicked out of the house.

As I’ve mentioned before, Kate’s symptoms have gotten about a hundred times better since we got out of that abusive environment.

She scheduled Kate for two conductivity tests and kicked her out. Total time: five minutes. And then they had the gall to charge our insurance company full price for that.

So now, we really don’t want to see anymore doctors again. We are still trying, but finding neurologists who’ll take her insurance has been…um, trying. Supposedly, you can check their website. There are eight neurologists in our area, and not a single one of them had a valid phone number listed. So for now, we’re back to our own brand of alternative medicine. It’s worked better than the healthcare system so far.


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“Beyond Scared Straight” is Trash

I had occasion, today, to watch a few minutes of this show. First, the kid’s family informs us that he can’t be helped because he won’t listen. Then his brother, who’s been through the program before, teases him and asks if he’s going to cry. Then four cops bully him relentlessly, let inmates bully him relentlessly, make him cry, scare the shit out of him, and just generally traumatize him.

How the fuck is this supposed to help?

First of all, this kid has probably been abused his whole life. I mean, this is a family that thinks abusing him further is a good plan to get what they want out of him, so that seems like a safe bet. And it doesn’t really matter if they’ve ever laid a hand on him or not. There are other, much more insidious types of abuse.

Then they broadcast his abuse on television for all to see. TV producers don’t care about helping kids. They care about getting people to watch their show. What kind of person enjoys watching kids get abused?

Then, at the end, they make him say a bunch of things about how glad he is that he went through this because he’s not getting in trouble anymore. He has to say that because viewers need a narrative. They need to be able to fool themselves into believing they’re not really monsters who enjoy watching abuse victims get further traumatized for entertainment.

No one is getting helped by the shit. Unless you count the producers. They’re probably getting a nice fat paycheck.

Traumatizing abuse victims and mental illness sufferers makes them more likely to use drugs and commit violent crimes. You tell someone they’re shit long enough, it turns out they start to believe it. You tell someone they’re good for nothing, they stop trying to be good. You tell someone they’ll never be anything more than a thief and a liar, and they’ll decide it’s not worth proving you wrong.

You can’t scare kids straight. You can only scare them. And like a beaten dog, you can only keep them scared for so long before they lash out again. They need help, not abuse.

God, what is wrong with people?

This and That

Snowed today. I really like waking up to frost on the windshield, and then outside is just this gorgeous blanket of white. I wish I’d gotten a picture to share, but I couldn’t find the phone when I first got up. It’s a pain to drive in. Sometimes, it’s even scary. But it’s so pretty, too.

I found this pretty great twitch stream. It’s a pair of Google Home hubs chatting with each other. Forever. At time of writing, they were arguing about which was one was smarter.

I’m going to tell another shitty story about my past, I think. Growing up, we’d start out every school year by buying me new clothes whether I needed them or not. One year, when I was in high school, I put my foot down. I did not want to spend hours trying on trying on jeans. Especially when I only needed to try on one pair to know that the eight other identical pairs would fit.

Well, grandma new best obviously, and I needed to be taught a lesson. So I was informed that I would just have to keep wearing my old jeans, then. And at first, this was fine. But after a couple months, because of I was overweight (which is an abuse story in itself), the inner thighs developed holes in them. The ripped cloth rubbed against my legs and gave me horrible welts that made it hard to…be, really. Walking hurt. Sitting hurt. Getting them on and off hurt.

Now, I had an incentive for new cloths. I told grandma I needed new jeans because these were hurting me. She said I should have thought of that when she wanted to go. I spent the rest of the year in agony because she wanted to teach me a lesson about being convenient to her.

And We’re Back

More or less. And not a moment too soon. And of course, now that we’re back, there’s no work to be had. So today, I’m attempting to find other routes. Like promoting this blog so I can maybe start a Patreon.

It’s a weird day. I wish I had a house, but only so I could start streaming on Twitch. That’s been a dream of mine for like a year now, but I never could in that hell house.

I don’t have a whole lot to say. Let’s see…

I tried out a website called today. I listened to a three-minute song, typed out what I thought of it, and made one whole penny for my time. >< OK, but that’s OK. You make more as you get better, so I figure I’ll keep going. I listen to another three-minute song, type out what I thought of it, and get an error message that my review doesn’t appear to be in English.


So I guess I subconsciously began writing in Japanese or something there.

Kate and I are looking into alternative parking locations. She read that churches are a good place to park, so we’re planning to check around and make some calls. The parking lot at the gym just…it’s no less safe or anything like that. It’s just…people staring. Every single time they walk by the car. You’d think we haven’t been doing it for weeks already or something.

Also, I started a Twitter, as you can see by the widget in my sidebar there. Thinking of starting a tumblr or instagram as well, but I spend most of my time either driving or sitting in a library. Not many options for a good photo shoot.

I’d like to start fiction writing again. I haven’t written much since about 2004. I was working on this huge fanfiction series and having just a ton of fun. It was my little escape from Wal-Mart, and I wrote between 1500-2000 words almost every day for like a year, year and a half.

But then I left Wal-Mart. They’d been ignoring my stated availability since day one, and when I started going back to school, they decided to start making it ridiculously hard. I had to submit a form to change my available hours. They continued to ignore it, so every class day, I had to call management about an hour before it was time to leave and ask to take the rest of the day off. I did this two or three times a week for six months, and they never just worked it into the schedule. They made it as difficult as possible for me to get a higher education. So one day, I lined up another job and left. And then my other job informed me they had never heard of me, and I ended up working at Domino’s.

Well, Domino’s didn’t last long. The economy was rapidly going to shit and gas prices had just started climbing. Pretty soon, I wasn’t making enough money to continue making deliveries. I was practically paying them to let me work there. So I quit and went to work for my grandpa.

Some years earlier, my grandpa had wiped out my college fund to start his own business. It was a sure thing, he said. He already had customers. He did good work. It would be easy. As you can probably guess, it went to crap. Specifically, it struggled along and barely broke even for about five years, after which it started losing money.

I became my grandpa’s secretary a few months before the end. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, he was cheating me of wages. I wasn’t even making minimum wage there. Honestly, that’s fine because I also wasn’t doing any work. He didn’t train me at all. He just said here’s the accounts, here’s the checkbook, have fun. I figured out most of the computer stuff, and I answered the phone and took messages. But that was barely a third of what I should have been doing, and he’d get pissy with me for screwing up. It’s like he thought women just instinctually know how to be good secretaries.

Honestly, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what he thought. It’s just the latest in a long list of things he never thought he needed to teach me.

Anyway, that harrowing, soul crushing experience went on for a couple months before he hired my mother to replace me. He didn’t actually let me leave, though. Mom actually does know how to be a good secretary, so she took over pretty much my whole job, leaving me sitting in front of a computer browsing the internet for eight hours a day. Periodically, they’d try to give me make-work. They got pissy if I took a day off, but didn’t have anything for me to do. I tried to spend my time writing, but it just got harder and harder and harder. I finally quit in the middle of a story and didn’t finish it for about five years.

I try to write on occasion. 1000 words here. 2000 there. Then I delete it and give up for another year. My family broke me.

Huh. Guess I found something to blog about after all.

Not Much to Say

Today’s been rough. Found some allergy meds that seem to be working for me, but the library was closed for New Year’s. So this is three days now that we haven’t been able to make a single penny.

Kate’s mom called. We didn’t answer, so she left a message. I finally listened to it some hours later. She just wanted us to know that Kate’s dad wants to know if he could sit down with us and talk. Because he’s too chickenshit to call himself. He does this sometimes. He’s too big and important to stoop to our level, you see, so he has her mom come get us. If he absolutely has to do it himself, he stands a foot from the door and asks us to come out into the kitchen, and if we dawdle even for a second, he starts getting pissy. He doesn’t want to talk to us. He wants us to stop acting like children and do as he says. Because unquestioning obedience to a parental figure is the mark of an autonomous adult.

Sick Day

I’ve been sick for a few days, actually. At first, I thought it was just allergies, but the allergy medicine I got didn’t help with my cough. It’s this persistent racking thing that turns my throat into hamburger and gives me a headache. So I tried some Dayquil, but that helped even less. So I tried some dedicated cough suppressant; still nothing. So I’m back to thinking it’s just a really awful allergy attack from breathing in dashboard dust. Really need to get out there and clean it today.

I used to think I had chronic sinus infections. As an infant, I was in a croup tent for a couple weeks, and I’ve had weak lungs ever since. I get bronchitis at the drop of a hat, usually in the form of a secondary infection from something. So I’d get this awful sickness, then end up with bronchitis whether I took antibiotics or not. And now, I’m starting to think I understand why they didn’t help.

This is the problem with prescribing antibiotics “just in case.” It’s not just the resistant bacteria strains we get these days, though that is a ridiculously huge problem. But it’s also the simple fact that, by giving me the “just in case” pills, they were throwing up their hands instead of trying to find the real cause.

Antibiotics are easy. And hey, they’ll probably help, right? And then you end up with a 34 year old woman who never knew she’d been suffering from allergies her whole life.

Spoke to the Psuedo-In-Laws Today

After being literally chased out of the house on Christmas, we left a bunch of our stuff behind. Today, I went to pick it up. I expected Kate’s mom to be there. I did not expect her dad.

If you’ve ever seen abuse depicted on TV, it’s usually between a husband and wife. The husband does something deplorable, and then, either immediately or later, he apologizes. The wife, clearly unhappy and beaten down by all this, accepts. They continue to live together even though he’s probably going kill her soon.

It’s…maybe a little overblown for drama’s sake, but it’s not a fabrication. This is actually how abusers work. First, they prepare you for this life by pretending to be normal people. They slowly ramp up the tension until you’re constantly on edge and don’t really know why; sometimes, you don’t even notice you’re on edge because it crept up so slowly.

Next, as they grow comfortable with you, they stop mediating their behavior. Soon enough, you’ve become a safe target for them, and they explode at you. Maybe you dropped a plate or closed a door too loud. It doesn’t really matter what you did because it’s not about you, but they’ll make damn sure you think it is by zeroing in on that dropped plate or shut door.

Once they see that you’ve not only been sufficiently cowed but are punishing yourself, then they apologize, they had a hard day, they don’t mean to yell, but you’ve really gotta stop doing those things. See, there’s no such thing as an accident to the abuser. Everything that happens is done deliberately to spite them.

Anyway, I bring all this up because when I walked into the house today, I noticed he stood up and half followed me and was just standing there waiting for me. As I carried a load outside, he put on his most apologetic voice and asked me to let him know how we were doing.

At first, I told him I didn’t know. I didn’t really have an answer for him. We’re living in a car. It’s primarily his fault, him and Kate’s mom. But we’re fine. We don’t want their pity or their meddling. So I said I didn’t know and kept moving stuff.

But while I was going in and out, Kate’s mom started laying into him, blaming him for this situation. I didn’t hear most of what she said, but while I was on the last load, she mentioned about she always smooths things over, and then he goes and ruins them again. So I said, no, you have never smoothed things over. I told her that what she was doing was called gaslighting. And then I turned to Kate’s dad and told him straight up that we were living in a car because he couldn’t accept that this was life and that we were doing the best we can to manage Kate’s condition.

He tried to beg me to stop and discuss this, but there’s nothing left to discuss. Unless they both go into therapy, we’re never speaking to them again. Or at least, not until we have a place to live and can finish picking up all our inessentials.

But I’m proud of myself. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to say something like that. Even a few weeks ago, I’m not sure I would have been so blunt. My need to protect Kate from them has been bolstering my confidence, but getting out of that house was some kind of catalyst. I was shaking like a leaf, but I still felt strong.