Friday, April 14, 2006

Avoiding Ruining Your Today Because Of Your Past Abuse

One of the sad facts of life for those of us with the terrible histories, is we can easily destroy our hard-fought-for new life, when reminded of our traumatic past. This again is a topic I have rarely seen discussed clearly, as it involves admitting being far less then a stellar performer. I nearly destroyed a treasured friendship over a memory I couldn't even consciously identify.

Rule Number One: When some event happens and you react radically, STOP! You find out a new fact about a person and you want to terminate the relationship. Before you act on that impulse, you have to try and find out what in the world you THINK happened, as compared to REALITY.

In issues of either physical, or psychological survival, we imprint "emergency" reactions. If you accidentally touch something hot, the impulse to move your hand only makes it to your brain AFTER your "emergency" nervous system forces you to remove your hand, before too much damage can be done. Our brains have a similar system.

To this day, a room at dusk with no inside lamp on, fills me with a mind-numbing dread. Why? Because, as a child of six, this setting meant: A) My parents were asleep and wouldn't get up for hours, if at all. B) I wouldn't get dinner (which was really bad, if I hadn't had anything for lunch). And C) There was absolutely nothing else for me to do but wait it out until the next morning, when I might have awake parents to feed me. This happened a lot and my brain now considers an unlit room at dusk, an "emergency" situation.

I have learned that even when at someone else's home, it is okay to request a light be turned on. I don't necessarily have to inform them of the entire "why". Usually, just saying something like "this time of day makes me nervous, could you please turn on a light?" It is really no problem. If I ignore my internal terror, I'm likely to break out in a cold sweat and want to get into compulsive over eating. This is not good, as I now have all the food I want, any time I desire it.

An empty refrigerator also scares me. Mine - I go to the store and fill it up. Yours - well, I'll do my best to make sure you're not in need, or want. This can offend some people, who are trying to put on appearances. I try to avoid that personality type any more.

This all sounds a bit trite now, but a week ago, I went into "emergency shut-down", after discovering a male friend wears one stud earring! He told me of owning several styles of same and also having a small hoop earring. My first reaction was a strong temptation to cry. I felt an odd, coldness sweep over me. I have learned to observe my emotional states, as at times, it indicates I need to get a medication change. The last time I experienced this severe reaction was over the first time I was mugged. I absolutely couldn't deal with that new reality. A man on a bicycle had stopped beside me, I thought, to ask for directions. I was returning home from a swing shift at 11:30, on a Thursday night.

He grabbed my leather purse strap and began to cut it with a knife. He had to really work at it, as it was a good quality purse. I remember seeing the knife literally an inch from my right breast. I toyed with the idea of fighting, but it would have been too easy for him to stab me in the chest. I was frozen in place. After it was over, I walked on another block and a wacko in a wheelchair told me that he'd give me $10 if I'd perform a sex act on his body! (Some days, you have all the luck).

As I was about to cross the final street to my house, the same bicycle came back, returning my broken purse! It was another man, who had heard me screaming, after the mugger took off, throwing me down into the street. The second person had chased the mugger. The mugger dropped the purse and bike. Now, this kind person was returning my purse. I was almost unable to speak at all. The police were called and a report was made. I was totally shaken and only discussed the incident with one co-worker, who kept quiet about it.

I had to force myself to be rational. All this emotion because I now know that a person I like wears a stud earring? I kept re-reading the email and my emotions weren't getting better, but worse. For some reason, I was now in full shut-down mode. I didn't want to talk to, or see this individual. I wanted to erase this new information. I felt like I'd been abandoned! For those of you who don't see the pattern yet, this is an extreme OVER REACTION. NOTHING about my friend had changed. He'd been wearing a stud earring during our entire relationship, the only change was my awareness of this fact. Usually, logic like this calms me down. No dice. I was still a mess.

When I'm in pain, I use humor. I got on Skype to a few male friends I was pretty sure weren't into earrings and we had a few laughs about the questionable state of Western Civilization. One gent informed me, that it was popular among sailors, as an easy way to show off and transport their wealth. No, I still feel like crap. I then noticed my earring sporting friend was text messaging me. I went cold inside, but had the (I believe) God-given wisdom NOT to act on my torrent of emotions. I acknowledged that the new fact bothered me a bit, but that I'd get over it. I then flat out lied. (One of those: "act as ifs.) Even though I was so screwed-up I was having trouble typing I said something like, "Don't worry, you are still my very cool friend". He laughed and (thankfully) didn't want to continue to chat. I thank God I did NOT share what was really happening with my feelings.

I have absolutely learned that when I over react, the current circumstance has absolutely NOTHING to do with the real problem. The real problem, is: I've been reminded of something from my PAST and my brain thinks its another emotional "emergency". I still had no clue as to what had set off my alarm bells. I knew my friend wasn't gay, and even if he was, I don't care about his sex life. He wears an earring, 90% of the male Marriott employees I've talked to, wear them, so why am I so torqued? I kept sinking deeper into a nasty depression and drawing a total blank as to why.

I now was literally clawing my way through that quicksand-kind of depression. Movement is hard, thinking is murky and my attitude is far below zero. It was actually difficult for me to do my housekeeping job. I'd catch myself sitting somewhere, staring off at a wall, just like my mother used to do. Oh geez, I'm thinking about Arizona. The absolute worst time in my life. Sexual molestation, neglect and abandonment, all within a terrible two-year period of absolute hell.

I was still smarting over a simple fact. My friend and his damn stud earring! I absolutely gagged on it. Why? Something about being gay, the gay lifestyle, or maybe somebody who wore earrings... Suddenly, I remembered another terrible incident in my life. I returned home from work to discover my bi-sexual husband cavorting with two naked boys, 14 and 16, on our living room rug! By God! I could have cared less that he was gay. I didn't want to sleep with him, so if he got it somewhere else, that was fine with me! But no way was I putting up with under-aged children being victimized. I began divorce proceedings and my world began a fast collapse.

Disillusionment! I thought I knew my husband, after ten years of marriage. But I sure didn't know he liked going after 'chickens' (slang for under-aged boys). He was also claiming to be an Eastern Orthodox Catholic Priest. For years, the site of priests vestments caused instant nausea. No one in my world would do that to any child! But I was sure disillusioned on that one!

I felt some clarity. I made wrong guesses about parts of my friend I had no information about. The truth felt like a disillusionment and now I saw the reason I was so totally over the top, emotionally. But, somehow, there was something more. My x-husband was not the root of my distress. He was an additional experience, confirming an earlier traumatic lesson about disillusionment, child molestation.

I was about 7 and daddy slept in my bed many nights. I'm not sure why. He did stuff to me as a baby, but I don't remember him messing with me until this one particular night. I woke up to him being really warm to the touch. He was thrusting himself at me. (I knew what he wanted to do, and I wanted to do it too). He thought I was my mother and he kept saying how they had to get to the hotel. I got up and walked around, trying to wake my daddy up, but he was too drunk. I got back in bed and the same scene re-played. For some reason, I put a stop to it. I got up and ratted out my father.

It was a pathetic scene. My father is blind drunk and has absolutely no clue as to what is happening. My mom is drunk too, but to her credit, when I told her what happened, and how my daddy thought I was her, she sobered up quick. She kept saying: "How could you? How could you?" My father just stood dumbly in the doorway of the family room - absolutely confused and stupid. I used to remember that scene, but just the blue wall behind my father. I'd cry for hours It took years to retrieve the actual memory, to where I could grieve the terrible loss of my parents, my childhood and my innocence. I hate sexual abuse, it trashes the entire life of its victims. There it was! A stinging pain, that never really goes away. I just choose to ignore it most of the time. There are only so many tears one can cry and so much time one can devote to the past. But what did all this have to do with a damn stud earring?

By now, I had begun to return to the here-and-now. I saw how an earring could lead to such an over reaction. Disillusionment for me was always an 'emergency". I can't remember making misjudgments about people that weren't major-league disasters for me. Well, I could see zero consequences for me, as it related to my current friend. At best, he has modern fashion sense, at worst, I can consider it a "quirk". I remembered the sermon from church about leaving the past behind, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

By now, I'd finished my job and was walking home. I prayed that I could actually not return to the awful memories of my past. To take the faith-step of turning from those thoughts to something good in THIS PRESENT MOMENT! No lie, it took a lot of mental effort just to pray. I started out snarling at God, knowing He understands my process. He has taught me that it is safe to think the truth to Him. I have said some really nasty things at God, in anger and I know He understands. After the anger I just had to claim the promise that my future is going to be different from my past, because God said so. I slowly began to remember my up-coming vacation, food and some interesting computer work I was doing for my church. I am really jazzed about setting up an activities area on our web site, for the children.

Arriving home, after my thirty minute walk, I was no longer sad, depressed, or angry. My friend now simply has a 'quirk', I confess, I don't completely understand this particular facet of his personality, but so what? I'd still take a personal check from him, vouch for his character, trust him with computer passwords and even let him stay in my home alone. There are very few people on the planet I trust to that degree. My world was righting itself.

I'd gone from morbidity to normality. After dinner my friend, earring and all, and I had a lovely chat session. Yeah, he's the same as he was yesterday, except now I know he truly does sparkle :p. This post is one, somewhat confused journey, along that wonderful gift from God: The Road To Recovery.


pat said...

This has been a huge challenge for me lately.
I am a guy..I was sexually abused for four years by my scoutmaster.

It has been about 25 years, but lately I have allowed the past to impact my present...with not great results.

I wish I could just turn my mind off....maybe I did that for too long.

Thank you,

steven edward streight said...

I think children should rise up and kill their abusive parents.

If wives would kill wife beating husbands, and if kids would kill molesting parents and neighbors, these events might decrease.

shankar said...

cybergal, you have put across your point very nicely.

i am 39, male, married, a victim of child sexual abuse.

my story is on

maybe you would care to post a comment?