Finding Peace after being left in pieces

Done | Mixed Media Art | Tree Talker Art | Rachael Caringella

Happy New Moon!

My blog has been a major part of my life and livelihood for several years now. I've been doing my best to blog and update it regularly even though it got very difficult to keep blogging these last few years.

This post has been kind of eating at me for a little while now. It just feels like there are some things I really need to get off my chest. I've had a lot of time to reflect on things lately, and I need to update my blog about what's going on in my life.

Sterling left me again.

This time instead of moving the to a neighboring cabin, he chose to move back home to another state.

I’m feeling the swirl of emotions that come with any breakup... It’s been a few weeks since he officially left, and I’ve been on the swing of both confusion, anger and grief. (Though writing this post has helped me tremendously.) There is no real time limit on healing, and I'm not writing this to vent or lament and I hope I don't sound spiteful or resentful. But, I wanted to update my blog about what has been going on, because so many of you were "there" when we first began our relationship, and I had so much hope that we would see things through. I know you did too.

This post is also in part, a way of me reaching out to others who might be in a similar situation, but might not see it yet. I know it's important to respect an ex and not continue to air your dirty laundry, but transparency and honesty can save lives.

Lightning Strikes | Tree Talker Art | Offgrid artist living

I’m still feeling a sense of shock over everything that's happened these last few weeks.  Shocked at him leaving so abruptly, and confused why things turned violent. The murky memories of the past 6 years tell me he loved me, but his actions spoke otherwise. 

Substance abuse also played a major role in all of this, and as I’ve done my soul searching, I’ve noticed that there were other subtle and not so subtle forms of abuse that piled up without me noticing. It was like the moment it all came to light, he immediately threw me away to begin a new life.

I haven’t gone into too many details of what’s gone on in our relationship or how it all ended. I still am unsure how much I feel comfortable sharing, but at the height of this all, I did reach out and alert my Facebook tribe that I was feeling in danger and was needing support. I was in a place where I could no longer even think straight for myself and I was scared. 


The relationship began in what felt like such a "perfect" way, so when things got ugly, I weirdly clung to the hope that things would go back to the way they were in the beginning. When things were good, they were really good. But when things were bad, they were terrifying. Things got so ugly and intense that I feel like I get whiplash if I even try to look back on the 6 years and find out what went wrong. 

By the end of it all, he had been drunk and angry for 9 days straight and was hell-bent on destroying my life. I was actually afraid that he would begin making good on the threats he had made towards me the previous night. The cops were called the night prior, due to the yelling and my pleading for him to calm down.

He told me if the cops were ever called again he would take it out on me physically, reminding me that he doesn't hit softly. He screamed at me for 5 hours straight that night... Telling me he was an enlightened man, yelling at me- that I was lucky he hasn't killed me or raped me. Yet. Yelling at me that everyone dies alone.

I laid in bed that night, huddled under a blanket, clutching my fur-babies and holding up my phone... I was recording everything I could as he yelled at me through the door. I was terrified he would "catch me" and hoping it would not be the last thing my family would hear from me. I prayed the cops did come that night, even if it meant him trying to harm me. All of the statistics of domestic violence and homicide were running through my head that night. I don't remember what stopped him, but he eventually went outside.

The next day, he didn't sober up. Instead he drank more, and called and scared my family and then sent off a message to my landlords in an attempt to destroy my reputation and relationship with them as well.

Everything that wasn't broken in me shattered that day. I had seen his true colors, he knew it. Shortly after that he announced he was leaving.

Relief flooded my body. I had been living in fear of breaking up with him for months. I was afraid of what could happen physically if I even tried to say anything about it.

I poured out the remaining alcohol in an act of bravery and over the course of the week he sobered up... That's when the hard part actually started. That's when I had to get really brave.

He began acting like his normal self again... It was like he started acting the way he did when we met. He told me he understood everything now. He finally saw things my way. His eyes were wide open. He told me how amazing I was. How smart I am, even though literally the day before he was screaming "STUPID GIRL" in my face. 

Narcissist behavior warning

I realized his cycles of love bombing and the Jekyll and Hyde behavior (which he openly admitted to) were very real. Not just wonderings in the back of my mind.

He apologized profusely that week, and told me what a changed man he was now that all of it happened. How I was the best thing that ever happened to him. I had changed him.

He told me through his abuse, I was given the gift of inner strength and ability to strike boundaries. He told me I would make great artwork from the broken heart he gave me.

I felt that dagger in my heart twist. 

I held it together despite wanting to spew fire. I understand it is helpful to see our trials in a positive light and turn them into strengths, but hearing it straight from the mouth of my abuser made me feel sick. I began to purge my own belongings in a mad fury to cleanse my environment and prepare the house for myself. 

I had decided the moment he had told me he was leaving that I wanted it to end as well as possible and not in a fit of rage. I didn't want to even look at him, but I know in my heart of hearts you never regret extending kindness and compassion. We took loads to the thrift store, the dump and prepared him for his trip home. 

It was a long and tiring week. He pulled out of the driveway on a Sunday, at 5:30 am. Exactly one week to the minute of when the threats and yelling that still scar my memories finally stopped. 

Monsoon Season | Tree Talker Art

After he pulled away, I silently slipped into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror for a pep-talk.

Instead of speaking, I took a good look at myself. My eyes were so tired. My feet and hands were blistered and bruised from helping with the move.

My body weight is and was dangerously low. I’ve always been underweight and skinny, but I currently weigh in at a scary 85 pounds.

When I saw what the scale read, I kinda just crumpled onto the floor. I held what I could of myself together while realizing just how much of myself I had been giving away.

The stress from carrying the daily domestic chores, the emotional labor and full financial responsibility with the growing drinking habits and the constant fighting took a massive toll on me. He hadn't worked in over a year and wasn't unable to bring in any income to help me. On top of it all, I was desperately trying to stay creative and make the art that is inside of me, all while trying to keep and maintain a happy relationship.

Cob House | Rachael Caringella | Tree Talker Art

Now I am alone here, with the added full brunt of the physical labor too. 

I made a vow to eat 3 meals a day and lift weights daily and went to bed to have nightmares for the several nights.

I felt entirely depleted of myself. Like a paint tube with all the paint squeezed out.

I wanted to sleep for months.

I asked myself often over the next several days, how did something so wonderful turn this violent? How did it get this bad?? (Real talk- I just had to edit that from "how did I let this get this bad")

Things started off so perfectly, but the changes happened over time. I would receive love notes in the morning, but at night I would be crying myself to sleep over a fight that came out of nowhere. This behavior started off tiny, but grew and grew. I would make plans or deadlines, and watch drama come up that sucked my attention and energy away from my art and work. It happened every time.  For some reason, I didn't see it. 

After a while, I had such a hard time being able to connect with others. His jealousy would rear it's head often, and I slowly found myself not talking to anyone in fear of seeming like a flirt. It slowly turned into an inability to respond to messages, emails or even post to my own blog. But, I didn't see it.

Marissa and I were texting one day back when I lived at the cabin, and she asked how things were going. I mentioned another fight happened, and she said something that really shook me. It shouldn't have, it was so small, but it did. She said "Rachael, do you know that normal relationships are not like that." 

I realized I hadn't really known what a normal relationship was in a long time. None of my previous relationships were ever this tumultuous. While her comment did strike me in a profound way, I still thought "There is hope." I was still missing something.

He moved out to another cabin shortly after that conversation when a simple misunderstanding between us when awry. Back then he moved to the cabin next door, so we could work things out during the winter. When his contract was nearly up, he told me how much he finally saw my side. His eyes were wide open. He needed me in his life, and I let him move back in. Though he never even fully unpacked. He kept bags packed in the spare room and let me on to think he could leave at any time.

For years I felt like I was walking on egg shells. It was like there were invisible trip-wires everywhere. If I mentioned one complaint, or said one wrong thing, it somehow snowballed into a massive fight despite my desperate efforts to just maintain peace. Small arguments turned into huge outbursts where I was called names and insulted. My intelligence was questioned, and my sexuality and gender constantly held against me and mocked when I had tried so hard to avoid confrontation.

Off Grid Cob House | Tree Talker Art

Before we moved here to the desert, I tried to play my last card. I said, "We cannot move to an even more remote location if life continues to be like this. We need to figure out boundaries on alcohol, and the fights need to be tempered down into conversations... I just want peace." I told him I would move alone if he could not agree to these things. Maybe it was naive of me to try that but I did what I felt best at the time. He agreed, and I had hope once again.

We moved here and those terms were not met. In fact, everything got so much worse.

I began to think it was all my fault.

I was seeking therapy. I wasn't eating, I was always stressed trying to make rent, keep the house clean and come up with meal ideas. I was nauseated all the time from the vitamins and supplements I was taking to stave off the panic attacks that met me every morning.

By the end of this, I was looking up different mental conditions that I might have had... because over time, not only was I doubting my own thoughts and emotions, I was doubting who I was entirely. 

Even the week he was moving out he was giving me simple tips on driving, "teaching" me daily simple tasks that I had been doing every day for years. It was like for the first time, I really saw how stupid he thought I was. 

Why didn't I see it all before?

Narcissism warning

Because it happened slowly over time. I was conditioned to it. The beginning seemed so good, that I always held out hope that it would go back to the way it was before. Because of this, I wasn't honest with myself or others around me. Because of that, I was blinded. 

I'm writing this blog post to those who might not see it either.

I was miserable for several months to a year when I didn't need to be. I was putting my hope in the wrong place and person. It shouldn't have to take a night of terror and violence to have finally gotten honest with myself, and so I hope it never gets to that point for anyone else.

Rachael Caringella | Tree Talker Art

Like mentioned earlier, I had reached out to my friends online during the height of this and I was flooded with love and support.

One of the biggest things that helped me the most was the other women who had been through similar situations. I hated to hear how many went through it... but they helped me see all of the things that I was missing.

Other women helped me recognize the patterns that were at play and even told me what to expect. They helped me name the monster I was up against. I was sent helpful articles and videos. I was so unsure what was going on, I needed other women to have been through it before to show me the pieces I was missing.

I would not have been able to navigate these waters alone.

I never meant to scare anyone, like I hope he didn’t mean to scare me. In fact, I still go through bouts of wondering how intentional his behaviors and actions truly were. But I've been told I may have many years of those questions and healing to go through.

I understand that some people might not think it's right for me to share some of these details that I shared here, but there is a part of me that needed to share this in order to remember it, in order to heal. I was against my every intention, but this is part of my #metoo story now.

I can only hope that others out there will recognize toxic abusive behavior before it gets out of hand. If you are constantly confused, reach out and hear the stories of others. It's so much harder to leave than anyone ever expects. I get that. But reach out if you can. Friends will be honest with you when you can't be honest with yourself.

I had been in the fight or flight mode for years. Alarms were constantly going off in my head and heart. My intuition for myself and my own needs was not always accurate. For years I felt a sense of dissociation from the fights. Reaching out felt hard. But I really wish I had reached out sooner. 

Being vulnerable the way I did was life changing for me. It forced light onto the situation that I kept hiding from myself.


Rachael Caringella | Tree Talker Art

Each day since has been getting a little better and I'm finding more peace as the nightmares slowly decrease with time.

I'm trying to give up feelings of responsibility and fault over all of this. Part of me feels responsible that he might hurt someone else in the future because I'm no longer the target.

I realize that'a not really mine to carry, but knowing the cycles that I've seen, shows me the likelihood of him laughing this off and treating another woman as carelessly as he did me.

Break ups are hard as is. Watching someone who said they will always be there for you, drive away with your dreams of the future is heartbreaking. 

But the questions that still bounce around in my head, bumping into the threats, and ricocheting off the names and insults hurt just  as bad as the abuse.

I don't think I'll ever truly know all the answers as to why this all happened. I hope the hurting doesn't continue to spread. 

Restless Disdain | Tree Talker Art | Rachael Caringella | Mixed Media Art


"More than a storm,

I am the monsoon.

You will never feel warm,

because I will eat the moon.

Foreboding rain,

Keep your restless disdain."


(The paintings shown in this post will be available this Full Moon in my next shop update!)

Rachael Caringella | Tree Talker

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Rachael Caringella

I am an Artist, Mystic and Oracle. I have been creating since I was little, and am constantly working on something new in the studio. I also have a passion for illustration. I have illustrated a few children's books as well as some Tarot decks and Oracle decks. Aside from creating art, I am also a card reader. I specialize in Tarot and Crystal readings. I love all things mystic, and spiritual and I delight in the mixture of creation and intuition.