Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Year in Review

     I don't do a very good job of patting myself on the back. I also skip by moments of growth as I throw myself mercilessly down the path to self perfection. I can forget to just pause and really see my growth and accomplishments and actually feel some sense of joy about them. So this post is going to serve as a momentary pause, where I say to myself "oh my God, I actually did that!".

     I think the biggest thing about this year was that I actually feel better both mentally and psychically. Addressing the abuse and deciding I wanted to heal all those scars knocked the wind out of my sails. I became much more introverted, I felt  exhausted and I felt like I would never feel better, ever again. Each year that passed during that beginning stage of healing felt depressing because I would still feel like disengaging from the world entirely. It often seemed hopeless, that the scars were far to deep and that I would be in a permanent handicapped state. I could have choked all the people who always say things like "it will get better, blah blah blah". For one that kind of sentiment expressed to someone going through healing form abuse can feel discrediting. You want to say "but it is hopeless, and I am broken, and I may never feel 100 %". You can't just swallow hope like a happy pill. How you feel in those moments is real and valid. The healing process is difficult and feeling hopeless about it is normal. Being one with whatever feelings I had and not trying to change how I felt has actually become an antidote of sorts. Without judging whatever state I was in by comparing it with what "I was supposed to do" helped me to move through that state much faster and I came out the other side much more solid than I would have thought.
Feeling better is something that has crept up on me. I didn't immediately realize it, as it was so slow and gradual. Then one day it had been going on for a long enough period for me to see the shift and the change it made. I am finally in the place where I can honestly say it does get better, you do come out the other side of the dark tunnel.  Still I would never say this to make anyone else feel like they need to buck up and be hopeful. The dark tunnel, sorrow and strife are real, and even if there is an opening on the other side, the pain of getting there is also real. Trying to force yourself into feeling something else "because you should feel hopeful and happy" is totally counter intuitive to the process.

     The next biggest thing was for the first time this year there were things I was not sorry for. I have done a lot of worrying and guilt over the path I have taken with family and friends. I second guessed everything, I walked on eggshells trying to draw boundaries and express myself in a way that they would hear me, and not take offense. I wanted to do everything right, I didn't want to discount their feelings or not give them the opportunity to address issues I was facing as well as in the relationship.  I didn't want to do anything wrong, I wanted to be guiltless as possible in my actions because I did not want to feel that burden of failure and that if everything went wrong it was all my fault. I also strained myself trying to figure out what was the right thing to do, and did I have any right to do it? Family is everything, you have a duty to your family, blood is thicker than water and you are supposed to forgive and forget. All those things fenced me in. I thought I must be a truly hateful and evil child of parents who "just made mistakes". But of course this leaves all the burden and responsibility in the child's court and none for the parents. It was supposed to be my responsibility to forgive them, accept them as imperfect beings, and stay in that relationship no matter what they did because they were my parents. This idea holds a lot of power in our culture, not just in Christian culture. And if all your scars are invisible abuse scars you have and even harder time proving that you deserve to be free of the individuals who raised you. Even though there is Bible verses that speak to parents and how they treat their children, the belief system I grew up in largely ignored that in favor of "honor thy mother and father". Children were raised with the idea they had very little rights if any, and they must bend their will to that of their parents. This sets you up for a difficult adjustment into adulthood and almost certainly insures that even if you establish independence you will never break away from your parents being in your life.

     Despite all I tried I found at the end of the day the relationships were not working for me, and they still were not healthy. Even though family members expressed a desire to engage with me, even do therapy, at the core of things it wasn't really a change. Other child had originally supported me when I came to them about the sexual abuse by Other Parent, but as time went on they had their doubts and predominantly wished to leave the past in the past. They wanted to me to be their friend and focus on doing things that were light and fun and that our relationship be about focusing on the good. There is nothing wrong with this, and sometimes we do have those type of relationships in our lives, ones that we don't share things on a deep level but get together for a good time. However for someone closer to me, and as my Sibling maintaining that kind of relationship is hard when they are supposed to be someone who accepts all sides of you. That was the problem, it wasn't that they wanted to focus on the good and positive it was that as a person close to me they didn't want to accept or deal with the full spectrum. And at the time I did not have the energy to invest in a surface level relationship were I could not be myself. I was going through hell and to pretend I wasn't felt cruel and counter to what I really needed at the time. I was too tired to want to hide the mess from someone who was supposed to be a supportive person in my life. I had already spent a lifetime hiding the mess of the abuse to protect others feelings and to keep from rocking the family structure.

     Vaarsuvius I had told from the beginning where I was at and what I needed going forward. They continued to stay defensive and tell me they just didn't know how it was possible I had been sexually abused by Other Parent. They didn't cave into saying they believed me for a whole year + and this was by the time I was quite through with trying to engage with them. Of course no one will believe me that their motivations in wanting to maintain the relationship were grounded in co-dependency, narcissism and abuse. Also because they seem to do all the things they are supposed to, it would seem like my reason for deciding to move to a position of no contact was unreasonable. Anyone who has lived with abusers or narcissist however will know how perfectly they play games in which they come out the victor and their opponent looks like and insane person, or just simply hateful and unreasonable. You just have to gird yourself with the truth and all your good and wise instincts and shove cotton balls in your ears for the wailing and gnashing of teeth not only by them but by all those who think they have been victimized by you. I actually was going to try therapy with V, but when I disassociated the very first time and felt terror I realized that I couldn't do it and something was wrong. I learned to always look beyond "the veil" with this relationship. What they did not do or say was always as important as what they did say or do. The real truth with the narcissist abuser always lies in subtly and metaphor and likely only you will see it because you know them best. This can make cutting ties difficult because that is all you have to rely on unless you have others who can talk to who can see it for what it is and cut through the BS. Even if Vaarsuvius was less of an abuser or not at all, I also had to learn what felt like a painful lesson; and that was it it didn't matter. How I felt being in the relationship and my health were all that mattered, whether or not they were a saint or devastatingly evil. I didn't need any justification of abuse to decide that there needed to be boundaries or that I was done. I say this is a painful lesson because because having grown up in an environment in which you think you are crazy and you forced to have reasonable justification for everything it can feel like wrenching yourself in an unnatural direction, and there is a lot of fear involved in that, especially fear of being wrong and being punished.

     It has taken making boundaries in all those relationships and more to finally be in a place where I was no longer sorry. It has taken 2 years and then some, and only finally really happened for me before Christmas when I had to address a relationship that I had tried to keep. I looked back on all that was said and done and felt solid about my conclusions and decisions. I also voiced things I would normally be afraid to say in our last communication, it was honest and firm. I still am uncertain but I think this is one of those relationships that got a bit of poisoning from my family members. I was really well done with the gossip mill and this person potentially taking it all as truth without talking to me. I was also done with being stuck in a place where if I said anything it would just make me look reactive and crazy, and the gossip mill would get to live another day. I decided I was done with that and found a way to put my foot down without giving the family any more fodder at my expense. It felt wonderful to just do it and not worry about saying the perfect thing, what did I have to lose?! I did it, and instead of rolling right into guilt, worry and shame for being a horrible person, I wasn't sorry! It was a revolutionary feeling, to for once not be sorry, to for once not just simply accept my status as the scapegoat without saying something, and to not worry about feeling responsible for all their behaviors and feelings. It's the first halt in a program that has been fairly well ingrained, and it feels fantastic.

Here is to a New Year of healing, accomplishing things, and being free and not being sorry about it!

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