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My year should have started, like everyone else’s, in January 2016 but it didn’t: on the 8th of that month, my husband, Eric, was arrested in front of me. We spoke for 4 minutes the following day and then never again. What happened after that was a series of disasters and horrific findings that completely shattered the fabric of life itself. I lost almost everything that matters but, most of all, I almost lost my sanity. Let’s put it this way: everything I held highly valuable unfolded itself, in rapid progression, as some type of nightmare kaleidoscope, into its opposite. The non-year ended with a complete turnover of relationships, professional goals, residence, nationality and even appearance. And it ends peacefully, with what I always wanted: simplicity, minimalism, the safe dose of friendship and the right amount of love. In 2016, I underwent the most extensive, radical and complete makeover of myself – body, social being, emotions, location and so many other things.

Let’s go over it. The story might look like fiction, but it is reality and it can happen to anyone. Yes: there are a lot of things that make me “different”, but anyone, absolutely anyone, can find themselves as co-player in someone else’s script and suffer consequences of things one doesn’t expect at the time and may never understand.

On January the 8th, Eric was picked up by two police officers from the Stuart Police department following a charge made by Budget for “failure to return rental property”, the car. In doing so, an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Alabama showed up in the system. That charge was for “possession of forged instrument” and there was an order for his extradition to that state. My (and our friends’) first reaction was that this was a huge misunderstanding. I needed to teach a class the following day. Since I had no car, I went up to the ATM machine to cash some money. Weird: the machine didn’t seem to be working, since none of my two credit cards or Eric’s card worked. The following day I taught my class and a friend took me to the Martin County’s Sheriff’s office. I thought it would be just a question of asking Eric what he needed. No: I couldn’t talk to him. A telephone number was given to me for a five-minute collect call from him. That happened later that afternoon but, before that, I realized that my credit cards were not going through. At the time, I didn’t have access to the online statements: I was not an American resident, I was in the process of transferring myself to the USA, after my marriage to him a few days earlier, and my cards were managed by Brazilian banks. By definition, all Brazilian institutions are shady. One of them refused to follow the law according to which a customer may deny charges done to his or her card, the Santander bank. My conversation with Eric didn’t help much: all I knew was that things were bad.

Within the following 72 hours, I learned that the charges to my credit cards were over 13K (yes, in dollars). All the expenses made by the two of us since I arrived in the USA were charged to my accounts. Nothing made any sense. The sheriff instructed me to annul my marriage and take action to protect myself. Immediately, I had solicitous witnesses coming to my room at the hotel to feed me information about Eric, about his fake degrees, fake military service and multiple frauds.

I had minus 13K and zero available cash. At that point the family nightmare began. My siblings took over. It was just the beginning. Among their initial ideas were to block all my access to any money (MY money, since I have a big house in Brazil, plus a car), giving me just enough to allow me to get to Miami and leave the country (obviously leaving behind all the few possessions I still had, since one can’t rent a car without a credit card). They had worse ideas. They couldn’t do it, though: thank all the atheist gods, none of my family members had my power of attorney then.

Having no time to research, I ended up hiring an unscrupulous attorney for the annulment, who charged me 4K for a service she didn’t even finish.

From then on it was downhill: I either played ball and did what my siblings wanted (and they made a point to humiliate me from day one, never once showing the slightest compassion or even offering to sit down and figure things out with me) or I wouldn’t have access to my own things and wouldn’t be able to move. I did. I hated myself every second of it. Family: it was all a lie, all the time. At this point, one of my brothers had finally made full circle back into the regressive authoritarian left, where he is, in Brazil and South America, possibly the most important propaganda figure. He works for and with the people who raped, abused and tortured me. A powerful asset.

I married Eric in a sort of spur of the moment decision: we had been having an affair for one year, more or less, and had no concrete plans. I came to the USA to compete and visit friends and gyms. We decided we wanted to be together and it took us some time to decide where. It was easier for me to keep my work at a distance, so we got married on December the 17th. I personally visited his previous work place, where he was head coach. How could he have tricked us all? How could the background checks from AAU (American Athletic Union), where I have proof he worked at (now I do), and the organization that recently hired him fail to identify the con? What a horror story: I had been conned by a genius Con artist who, for 20 plus years, managed to get away with a false identity. I delved deep into the medical literature about psychopathy and cluster B personality disorders because, honestly, given the data, this would be the wildest case ever reported.

For a few days, there was no way out. You don’t want to know what went through my head at the time. I ended up contacting some of the volunteer organizations I found.

https://www.peacecorps.gov

http://volunteeralliance.org/org-search/org-type/org-type/Community%20Based%20Organization

http://www.ve-global.org/

http://us.americasolidaria.org/voluntariado-internacional/

http://www.freevolunteering.net/

https://globalvolunteers.org

https://www.volunteerforever.com

 

I was ready to search deeper into the deepweb for real, super high-risk work, when my amazing immigration attorney suggested that we filed for an EB-1 “extraordinary ability and higher degree” permanent resident visa. I grabbed the offer and worked my ass out. Close to a hundred document pieces needs to be submitted in these high-profile petitions and it is a full-time job. At that point I had already forced my siblings out of my communication with my parents and control over my assets.

By March, everything looked more positive: our chances were good with the petition and I signed a contract with EliteFTS as a columnist. This was not just a sponsorship or a job. Dave Tate’s decision, and he doesn’t know it, was one of the only two insurances I ever got over my identity, the first being my attorney’s petition. He offered me a place in the team of my peers and he gave me a written-in-stone acknowledgement of my role in the grand scheme of strength training education. Maybe this is why my second series or articles delves so deep into identity as a key to hope and motivation.

I reached a difficult compromise with family. I had shelter, food, access to internet and all the help I needed to speed things up here in the USA (access to my money came later). I am grateful for it, and I expressed it many times. It was uncomfortable for all involved and each day I was still there made a resolution more urgent. Finally, in June, my work permit arrived, I bought a car from an African scammer, which cost me an extra 1500.00 to fix, and I arranged to rent a small room at a family’s house in Kansas. I stayed there for 4 months, I learned a lot about the fine workings of American economy, which, during my 40 years of intimate relationship with this country, I was surprisingly unaware of, and now here I am, in a nice place of my own in Oklahoma City.

During my stay in Kansas I did more observant-participant ethnographic research than during my academic years in certain matters (unplanned, but rich). It was fascinating and terrifying. I have it all documented with pictures, recordings, documents, etc. I never imagined the extent to which assistencialism damaged America, nor the range of the prescription addiction issue.

 

Part 3

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Emotional invalidation is one of the most common forms of abuse in families, but not only restricted to this context. The impact of emotional invalidation is indelible. Done systematically on a child, it will shape the way he/she reacts to any and every personal relationship