Sunday, 29 January 2012
Why do I write so much about this subject? What is the connection with Childhood Sexual Abuse?
My thoughts, mixed up as they are, are these.
The abuse that I suffered, gave me an altered perception of love; and of myself. I hate feeling smothered, possessed.
It is commonly believed that a child's character is formed before the age of six. I lived two lives. On one side a fairly average family life ; though my father was away frequently due to his work and my mother was slowly dying of cancer. On the other side was a nightmare of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
As I grew up I was exposed to familial love of various kinds. The twisted views of some of my family and the conditional love I was frequently exposed to, combined to totally confuse and instill fear in my young mind.
My mother loved me unconditionally. My father was very Victorian in his views and did not express emotions, i.e. he was cold, though I do know he loved me though . My sister was jealous and resentful of my existence. None of these harmed me; though later my sister would - at least not to the degree that others did.
My grandparents demanded a condition for "love", the grandfather especially. Love had a price, a painful and perverted one. When asked at what age I lost my virginity I used to glibly reply "four years old". This shut most people up when I explained why... My grandmother spent much of her remaining years trying to make up for the pain of my childhood and she smothered me.
The abuse that I suffered not only fractured my perceptions, it literally fractured me within and from myself. I developed Dissociative Identity Disorder - D.I.D. Disassociation occurred within me as an escape, a means to survive trauma. The different "versions" of me all had their own views and ways of dealing with love and intimacy. The connection between love and sex; for in an intimate relationship that connection must exist, was for me... fractured. I was... fractured.
When I first experienced romantic love at the age of fifteen, I didn't know how to handle it. In truth though no one does at that age, my experiences, feelings, perceptions made this all the more confusing and difficult.
Being loved, being wanted just for who I am, has been something I have struggled with all of my adult life. My feelings of unworthiness were stronger than anything else. I always used to seem to "fall in love" with the wrong person. I was well accustomed to being told I made a great friend, but that was it... I fell deeply, easily, and blindly. Was this love? Was it simply a desire to be loved? I don't know.
I've done all the regular "lovey dovey" stuff. Become entranced with someone, bought gifts, written love letters, sent recordings of mixed love songs to my hearts desire... Was this love? Or was this simply infatuation? Was I simply going through the motions of what I thought love required? Or giving what I so desperately needed to be given; time and effort from another that would make me feel worthy? Likely both.
When I did have relationships I seemed to always be on edge, waiting to be hurt. Fear and mistrust had been strongly instilled in my reaction to being "loved" I know I ended several because I wanted the control, I wanted to be the one who decided when it was over. Frequently I would then feel ashamed, stupid. I would berate myself for spoiling something just because it was "too good" for comfort.
After I had the breakdown at age twenty, things changed somewhat. I was married at twenty one to a woman fifteen years my senior who had two children under the age of ten. It lasted just over two years. The split was amicable.
This had a strange affect on me though. I knew what love was supposed to be, I knew how people were supposed to act when in love. I felt I was living outside the real world. For a good while I was the one being chased, the one who would say "you make a good friend, but..."
I fell in love with the idea of being in love. I couldn't let myself go there, I had to keep control of my emotions. I didn't like or love myself so how could I allow myself to be loved?
My relationships were strained, wrong somehow. I settled down for quite a few years but that relationship turned sour. We stayed together quite a long time though, unhappily for the most part. Possibly it was easier to accept the known, though painful, than to face unknowns, alone?
Even now, I do not feel worthy, so much so that I feel "alien" as I look at other people and I'm envious of how freely they express themselves, how comfortable they seem in their own skins and within their own relationships. It feels alien, or should I say, I feel alien.
Love.... Love has historically been the most written about, most sung about topic. Wars have raged because of it. People have died for it. Others have made complete idiots of themselves because of it. Love has destroyed nations. Love is also the reason for so much good, so much beauty and joy!
Those three words "I Love You" can do so much. They are very powerful words, almost magical. The same words can also cause panic and fear...
What do I know therefore of love?
I write of it, I have experienced much of it and it's side affects. My pulse has quickened, my eyes lit up, my heart has ached. Love is a wondrous thing when it is a positive and shared experience.
It can also be destructive and harmful.
I've read that some pedophiles have said they loved the child they were abusing. I was told this, that I was extra loved and special because I was the favoured one, because I kept the secrets. The "love" shown by the pedophiles that abused me was a conditional love. If I didn't do as asked I was punished..
That is not love, that is just sick and causes further harm and confusion to the "victim."
I was conditioned to see love in a different way. Love was used as a reward. If I was a good boy then I would be loved. If I did as I was told, if I shut up and put up, then people were nice to me. They told me they loved me. I was conditioned to accept and look for, conditional love.
This self-abusive connection formulae for love remains within me... . If I want love then I must forget my own needs, what I want does not count. I am insignificant. I am still unworthy and tend to choose partners with personalities, behaviors, and demands that reinforce that identity!
It has also affected my friendships. My desire to be liked, to fit in. I tried too hard. So I gave up. In the real world I have few friends. I find it simpler. The same rule applied for "like" as it does for "love"; I don't really like myself so therefore am unworthy of being liked. There are exceptions but they are few and far between.
To just be myself has been very difficult, painful almost. It has improved in the last eighteen months. The D.I.D. seems seems to have diminished . I am now in control of me. Additionally reinforcing my self-esteem in this unreal world of social networking I feel I am fitting in, that I belong. I have a purpose. I have cyber friends! I can take off my protective mask and just be me, though protected behind this screen.
I long to take this out into reality. To finally let myself be me. Am I good enough? Will I fit in? My mind spins with the questions and the doubts hide around corners.
Learning to love myself is the hardest thing I have ever undertaken.
If it frees my mind and opens up my life, the journey must be worth the anguish.