Sunday, May 29, 2011

Finding boundaries

Why am I awake? It's 11pm. I should have been asleep hours ago. Instead I am awake beating my head against a metaphorical wall. Why does everything have to be black or white? I have started and stopped several posts where I want to provide this lurid description of what I did last night. The thing is, I want to write it in such a way that it sounds like a semi-reasonable step on a very unreasonable path. Does that make sense? Maybe?

If I assume that my family's predictions for me are correct then I can interpret last night as a horrible predictor of things to come! I abandoned my children to party and be promiscuous! See, I am just as evil as my family. But that's not the real story. I didn't abandon my children. You do not have to sit at home 24/7 just because you have children. That's not a reasonable expectation. I went out for a night so that I could see friends. We chose to get drunk. Given how popular of a pastime this is I assume that I do not need to explain the appeal. But dude. Yes, I even made out with a pretty girl. But I was watchful of my boundaries and when I realized I was dissociating from my body and no longer really engaged with the act... I was performing... I stopped doing it.

I drank more than I should have, but that is not a moral failing. I am thinking about myself as if I have committed some sin. That's rather ludicrous, don't you think? Oh wait. But that's the dichotomy I know. Either you are abstinent from all substances so that you are good or you are a horrifyingly abusive addict. I have spent so many hours beating my head against the wall struggling with using medication for my anxiety. I don't want to use it. I don't want to need it. I don't want to admit I need it.

My uncle died 17 days ago. Since then I found an ally in my brother who provided oodles of additional information about my childhood abuse, lost an ally in my brother when I said that my need to process should be more important than our father's good memory. I outed my sister and my mother and loudly divorced my entire extended family. And I'm at least 1/4 of the way into a book describing my childhood. It's ok that I'm having some intense emotions. Really.

Tonight I watched the movie Hounddog. Towards the end of the movie there is an intense scene where a young girl deals with trauma by finding a way to express herself. I'm not going to say more than that because I think that anyone who wants to understand me should watch the movie. It's not a direct parallel by any means, but I think that is the closest picture I've ever seen of what it is like to be part of my family. And I feel such intense horror because what happened to me was a lot worse.

My father put a gun to my head when I was 9 years old and told me to suck his dick and my family thinks I shouldn't say that out loud because it HURTS PEOPLES FEELINGS to hear it. I am bad if I hurt other people so I should just shut up. Maybe go talk to a therapist, but not really. If you do talk to a therapist you need to not reveal any of the parts that make you look bad. You are a perpetual victim. You learn how to carefully tell your story to different people so that you always elicit sympathy. And you can't really tell the truth because CPS is bad and they want to hurt our family for no good reason so be sure to lie about everything. So maybe that therapist isn't such a good plan after all. People in my family go to therapy for a couple of months, once a week. They are prescribed a mood stabilizer. They confess that they were abused in vague, general terms. "My father did things to me." And people don't make them say any more because abuse is a private thing.

Once they get to the point where they have been told that they are brave and awesome for Surviving! You Are So Cool! Then they stop going to therapy. And they feel like they have been "cured" and if you talk about things from the past you are Bringing Up Old Stuff. They are past all that now. Why can't I move on.

Because my father raped me when I was 9 years old and no one did anything to stop it. Because when I go to my uncle's hospital to say goodbye I am told not to bother coming because there is no point. I am told that my father's death and my brother's death don't count in my lifetime tally of grief because they were evil. I am told that I make mountains out of molehills. I posted a timeline a few days ago with a list of big traumatic events in my life. That's a lot of really bad shit. The number one trauma in most peoples life is the death of a spouse. Really? Holy fucking shit. No wonder I feel like such a complete freak of nature. I have spent most of my life harping on the fact that you can't compare trauma, and people shouldn't minimize their pain. But I do a lot of minimizing my trauma. I do a lot (in my head) of saying that other people were abused too and they are doing better than me. No really, I don't know anyone who had a childhood like mine. I was so very isolated.


I don't know how to break the chains of my childhood abuse alone. I need a few more decades of talk therapy and I may not be done then. Because when animals are under stress they revert to their earliest, most basic training. Mine was... yeah. I can never ever let down my guard and act like I am "cured". That is a basic fallacy. That is the problem with the diagnosing of mental health issues. It's not like I have the flu. I'm not going to "get better". I don't feel like it is ok for me to exist and tell my stories and take up space in the world. And that shit's gotta stop.

I want to talk about what I did on Friday night because I feel proud of myself.  I feel like I made really good choices that are consistent with my professed values that I arrived at after extensive soul searching.  But lots of people think I am evil.  They are happy to tell me so.  Some of them won't tell me so.  Instead they will talk to me about learning to control my anger.  They will tell me about this long list of things I can do to "be present" and "not let the past get in the way of the present".

THAT'S WHAT MY FUCKING MOTHER WOULD SAY THE DAY AFTER I WAS RAPED YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES.  I feel this crushing weight of sorrow.  People want to help so much.  They don't know how to help by and large because they are projecting their own view of the world onto my life.  It's normal.  It's natural.  It is so well meaning.  How do I manage it though?  Because it's ok for all those other people to have their opinions too.  How do I hold on to my sense of self in the face of that?  Well, I toss my words like pebbles into the sea.  I pray to a God I'm not sure if I believe in and I ask for help.  I spend approximately .25 seconds doing that.  And then I turn on the computer.

I want help.  I want to learn how to be me and how to be happy and how to feel like it is ok that I take up space in the world.  It's not like I want to take up that much space.  I live in a house that is less than 1,000 sq feet.  There will be three adults here blessedly soon.  Two gorgeous growing girls.  If I want to learn how to take up as much space as I can I need to be careful.  I need to watch very carefully for toes.  I need to see where I end and they begin.

And the only way to really know that is to develop intimacy.  It's kind of an odd thing to admit.  I am not inviting Sarah to move in with me because I want another in house lover.  I am asking Sarah to become a deep and intimate part of my support network.  I am asking her to consent to being there for me as family in a way I haven't had.  I need to learn boundaries.  And it's not ok to put all of that on my kids.  I need adults in my daily life and I don't know how else to have that.

Whenever people tell me to get over things I want to rage and beat the walls.  People get through horrible things by having it acknowledged and talked about and being validated.  In times of stress people revert to their childhood training.  I was traumatized constantly as a small child.  I was kept in isolation from other people.  No one really knew me.  I flitted into and out of different communities so I was always weird but no one took the trouble to find out why.  I have continued it more and more as an adult until I find that I look around the bay area and I can't leave my house any more.

You see, I've left fragments of my personality in every social group and I don't know which parts are true and which parts are me reacting to trauma from my childhood so I did things impetuously that weren't awesome.  So a lot of people dislike me.  And I feel like it is all my fault.  If I were only a good person this wouldn't have happened.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

But this is the really uncomfortable part.  Ok, fine.  I can see those things.  I can make resolutions to change my behavior.  I know exactly what the problems are.  But the thing is... life is stressful.  Mine much more so than most people.  That's the problem with being a sprinter.  If I am not being traumatized I will go create a traumatic situation because I will sign on for so much stress that I revert back to broken childhood behavior patterns and I blow up my life.

Uhm, in my defense I'm doing this in more and more healthy ways.  And that's the part I'm trying to get through.  And uhm... it's not a "get better" thing.  Mental illness is not like the flu.  For someone who had a normal, sane, stable childhood... even if it wasn't absolutely perfect, children are resilient.  People survive lots of things.  If you revert to your childhood training you will get through ok.  My childhood training was to act out sexually, use substances to manage my emotions, and inflict enormous self harm rather than speak out about my sexual assault because it made other people uncomfortable to hear about it.

Do you see why I might have anger issues?  Is it growing more obvious why I don't want someone to tell me to go get my second chakra cleaned so I can be free of my torment?  (No Marisa, I don't mean you.)  It's not about my second chakra.  It's about being raped repeatedly and conditioned to believe that not only was it ok, but I deserved it and I had better shut up.

Yes, I need to learn boundaries.  But I do not need to be invited into a group of adults and told that I need to be responsible for their reaction to me.  I'm currently writing about my anger at my last therapist, if anyone missed that bit.  I need long term talk therapy.  I need someone who can get to know me because my trauma story is a special god damn snowflake.  There isn't another story exactly like mine.  I can have things in common with other stories without their resolution being mine.  Only I know my whole story because it is scattered to the winds.  That's part of why I am writing more and more of it on the internet and I want to publish books.  I am so tired of feeling like I am invisible.

I'm not.  I am demonstrably not invisible.  This is not rational.  There is no part of this experience that is rational.  But it's my early childhood training.  Watching Shanna is weird because I'm watching her learn how to navigate the world.  Her body is changing so fast that daily she has to reevaluate where she ends and where other things begin.  She doesn't think about things like moving the chair if her neck is uncomfortable so she can see better.


And that all feels like beside the point only it's not.  There has to be a point.  But this blog post isn't it.


  1. "You learn how to carefully tell your story to different people so that you always elicit sympathy."

    Is there a way to tell your story that doesn't elicit sympathy?


    "And uhm... it's not a "get better" thing."

    Do you mean here that you think it won't be fixed? or do you really think it won't get better at all? That it will always be as bad as it is now?

  2. Yes. Lots of ways. Me telling my family didn't elicit sympathy. It caused them to hysterically scream at me that I am terrible, a liar, and evil.

    Oh gosh no. I am rarely this bad. But I can be triggered to get this bad by life events and that will probably never stop. I will absolutely get back to my baseline, but my baseline is still... not everyones. I have a really lot of issues.

  3. i'm catching up!

    this is my favorite:
    "I don't feel like it is ok for me to exist and tell my stories and take up space in the world. And that shit's gotta stop."
    (because it's true, that second sentence)

    and this:
    "I need someone who can get to know me because my trauma story is a special god damn snowflake. There isn't another story exactly like mine. I can have things in common with other stories without their resolution being mine. Only I know my whole story because it is scattered to the winds. That's part of why I am writing more and more of it on the internet and I want to publish books."

    this made me picture you pulling your hair into a gigantic french braid (in the wind!), like you are bringing the thousands of stories of your life into one fairly linear yet very complex story. this is a huge undertaking, but clearly it's being pulled together by a pair of very capable hands.