"If you do not bring forward what is within you, what is within you will destroy you. But if you bring forward what is within you, what is within you will heal and save you." -The Gospel of Thomas
Writing this is scary. I will just start writing and get into the flow that drains me, so give me a break.
A few months ago, I started counselling. I had written these blogs months and months ago, trying to put in words what was going on inside me, trying to make sense of the confusion, trying to deal with the anxiety about publishing this or not – it is what one would call a “private matter”, but I feel I have done a lot of damage to myself by holding back for so long. But then I read this book, in which many women told their stories, and it has helped me incredibly to acknowledge my own feelings as legitimate. I dunno who reads this blog, but maybe it helps someone out there the way it has helped me. I don’t know whether what I write here expresses exactly what I feel… I haven’t figured many things out myself yet, so my perspectives, my self-understanding changes constantly and every day. I may write that this is what I am like, but who is set in stone?
Jackson had been recommended by my friend about whom I wrote a few months ago, but I was still nervous when I sat in the waiting room, envisioning a rerun of the assessment. What would she say about the notes H. had taken... H. seemed to write down all the wrong stuff.
Finally, the receptionist called me, and introduced me to Jackson. Jackson is a small woman with grey curly hair, who wore a blue dress and a cardigan and a very genuine smile.
"Where do I sit?" I asked her, a bit insecure, after the first counsellor had almost reprimanded me for picking "her" chair. But not so Jackson. "Anywhere you like!", she said, smiling. I sat down, still nervous and awkward, feeling like I had to get naked in a minute. Well, that's what it kinda was. Jackson leafed through my file. "Well," she said, "H. has taken a lot of stuff down here last time you were here, but", and she turned to me and laughed a little, in such a friendly way that I relaxed, "the writing is so awful, I can't read any of it. So we may have to cover some old ground."
"That's cool", I said, sheepishly. I was quite pleased, actually. I had been afraid that I would have to spend the hour explaining to her what H. had jotted down, and I am confused enough as it is.
Jackson had a way of asking and guiding me into the conversation that I began to speak naturally... and she seemed to understand every single bit quite well. It was so easy to tell her stuff, and to feel I could trust her.
And I told her about HIM. It was the first time that I told an adult who had not been in a similar situation, told her in person, face to face, what happened. And how much I doubted. Well, that's not true, when I think about it. I have told some people. Some friends. Boyfriends. But none of them knew what the hell it meant. Most boyfriends were usually like, “oh, that sucks, but you know, you shouldn't give up on sex. You gotta try again, how else can you be happy?" And let's face it, it's the typical phoney way of a guy trying to get his way, and it is disrespectful and humiliating, and I am pissed off about that. Most people didn't know what to say, and I understand it, which is why I have kinda given up talking about it. If I mention it, people just sort of ignore it, belittle it or change the subject. It makes me feel it is no big deal to anyone but me, maybe I shouldn’t make a fuss. Or they act like or say, hey, it’s over, it’s been a long time ago, and hey, he didn’t fuck you, so it’s not that bad. But the thing is, he didn’t have to fuck my body to fuck with my soul. And it is not over for me. It’s never been. And it has been bad. It still is.
But by now I have met other people who are abuse survivors as well... and it has helped talking to them, no doubt. Jackson was the first non-victim who took in what I said, and acknowledged it, where I don’t have to play it down. She is someone who helps me acknowledge to myself how fucked up this was, and how wrong, and that I had every right to feel shitty about it. It is different if someone "normal" understands and takes my side not based on the fact that similar stuff happened to her. Not to insult the people who have helped me. It is just different. Perhaps because abuse survivors are biased in some way. They will take your side because you can't do anything else without doubting yourself, perhaps. Maybe that is just my perception.
"Patty", Jackson said, seriously. "It was abuse. If he tried to make you do things that you didn't like, or did something that was entirely inappropriate, and - even though he should have known better - violated your boundaries, then it was abuse. You are the one who determines your boundaries. No one else."
And even though I knew it, all those years, and friends of mine have said it was... somehow when she said it, a distanced person... it hit me for real. I sort of stared into blank space when the realisation hit me, and tears began to choke me, coming from what I couldn't describe. Fury? Grief?
"What could you have done to protect yourself?" she said. "You were a little girl."
It's so strange because all those years I was aware that I should not feel guilty for it. But I just found out I did.
Every time a man touches me that way while he pretends to be my friend, to have only platonic affections for me, I turn to stone. You fucker think I don’t know, can’t feel the fucking difference. Believe me, men like you sharpened my instincts. You abuse the trust and friendship I have for you, and it makes me feel nothing but contempt for you. You want to lose that place in my heart and have the void filled with hate for you? That’s the quickest way to get there.
And I hate myself for allowing you to do it because I can never be 100% sure that this is what it is. Because if I flip, all I may get to hear is “why would I touch you bitch? You are pretty full of yourself. You can’t accuse me of that!” I see in that moment that you take advantage of me, but I cannot face the truth and the pain of realising that just now I have not only been used but also lost a friend. I’d rather close my eyes and pretend nothing happened. And I hate myself for that. I don’t know why I do this, allow this over and over again, because it makes me feel sick, it makes me feel worthless, it builds a bitter knot in the pit of my stomach that kills me like a cancer.
In a bitter way, it is funny. The abuse, in “legal terms”, by textbook definition, was minor... but the thing is, you can’t measure in legal terms what occurred. Tornados are measured in terms of the damage they leave behind, and that is how I feel about it. But I feel that I am being made responsible for what it did to me.
There are the NewAge pop psychologists who tell me that it is up to me what I feel. That I can decide how I feel about it. That blame me for feeling the way I feel, that tell me it is my own fault if I feel hurt, if I feel sick, if I feel angry, if I don’t go on being happy, pretending that everything is alright.
But you have just stolen a piece of my life. I have every fucking right to feel the way I feel.
You have stolen more than that. Not only have you changed the way I feel about you, asshole.
You have changed the way I feel about men, about love, about intimacy.
Every time a man touches me with those intentions, I turn into a corpse. I watch from the outside, like a disengaged scientist. I may turn into this OTHER person... the person that I could be, free from all that, but that is never quite me, that is a person without a past… Such a person is real but not quite. It becomes me but it is fabricated, to some extent, I don’t quite know where it stops and the old me begins, but I can never quite convince myself that she is real, and my core, the core that connects me to life, is never part of it.
I can't be physically close to men that I am emotionally close to, because I can't allow them or myself to love what I hate so much. I can’t risk that they take my heart and then use it, and I know it will happen because I am worthless. You taught me that. You made me love-proof the day you used me, making love pearl off me like water off a duck’s back; I can’t absorb it, take it, accept it because my heart finds the thought impossible that someone could love me, even if my intellect tells me otherwise. I can’t be physically close to men full stop. I am a piece of meat, because you taught me that I am when I was a little girl, and your friends-in-spirit taught me when I grew up, and no matter how hard I try to convince my soul otherwise, I can’t manage.
The object of my hate is me, that part of me that carries the wounds, and I hate it for being wounded, for being weak, for being a failure. I want to be myself without the crap parts, without the parts that you touched and made rot in their places.
Jackson was respectful, and kind, and acknowledged what I felt. She made me feel like my feelings counted... not what everyone else saw. That set everything off. She seemed to ask all the right questions. She read the little hints... she seemed to look into me. She said my nightmares may actually be a good sign. Saying that I am reconnecting. I was in there, on the verge of tears, but not crying... and she even noticed that. I hardly allow myself to cry in front of anyone. It was bloody confusing to think about or to try and describe who I want to be, who I am, and all that stuff...
I don't want to deal with things... I think they are beyond repair. What am I to make of it, and will it do anything since I can’t change the past? I just want to kill that old self of me that is full of shit, take that crippled, ugly, filthy thing, tie it to a big boulder and drop it into a bottomless lake, never to be seen again... so that I can start over. Isn’t it easier to just start over?
So whoever likes me for who I am - or better, likes the bit in me I hate, the bit that hurts - holds me back... revives that part of me that I want dead... I want them to like the person I could be, I want to be, because that will help me become the person I want to be: strong and graceful and independent and whole and nice and loved by all and loving all. And yet I want nothing more, simply that I am loved for who I am. Talk of schizophrenic.
I have been to counselling a few times now, and even though it is essentially just talking, it is fuckin scary to see how much you learn about yourself... to find out stuff that never occurred to you, and for how granted you may take some of your views. Not views. Wirings. A view is something you are aware of and you have rationalised. Wiring is everything in you in spite of your views. My wiring is that I hate that little girl that has been hurt. My moral intellect tells me that it is wrong of her grown-up self to hate her so much for the injuries that are not her fault that she wants her dead. But I can’t help feeling that way because I wish I could split it all off and out of my life… but the disconnection I create is never complete, and you know how it works with conjoined twins... one dies, the other one will get ill and then die, too.
The tornado metaphor does not work legally. But I am not interested in justice. What justice could I get if he was still alive? Hell, some people may say, you shouldn’t say stuff like that about a person who can’t defend himself. But what fuckin chance did I get to defend myself????
The thing is, I got justice. He was punished. He died a slow, painful death and he is in hell, I am sure, because he was never sorry for what he did. As for me, I just want healing now.
Of course, some of those who read this may think that all this sounds like a big ass self-pity party, I have no illusions about that. But if that’s what you think this is all about, you can go and heartily fuck yourself!
This is about liberation. Liberation by writing may not be much, but it is a start, and for now it will have to do.
I can talk about things intellectually and distanced, but not emotionally. It's the grown-up Patty that can hold a seminar on an event the kid Patty has experienced, because the kid Patty is not allowed to speak, the kid Patty can't speak.
Maybe that is why I am such a head-in-the-clouds Peter Pan. Maybe that is why I am an idealist. I so desperately want things to be different, to be beautiful, nurturing, kind, be what they could be.
I read something about River Phoenix the other day. I was 16 when he died. What I read was that he was a person looking for purity. I dunno if that was just a fabricated image or if he was really like that, but he had this aura of innocence. There was a rumor about him out there, that he was abused as a kid (another rumor said, his family was with the Children of God or The Family, or something similar, a cult notorious for taking sexual liberties such as violating children). And that is what defines me as well. I crave nothing more than innocence. Innocence in the sense of wholeness. Where I can love without reservation and accept love without fear, because it would never occur to me that this may make me vulnerable, that this may not be a good idea. How can you destroy anything like that in a human being?
Jackson asked me what I would like the person to be like that I want to be in a relationship with. I guess my ex had a lot of the qualities I was looking for. Perhaps I would say, integrity, honesty, straightforward openness combined with kindness, someone with an ego so healthy that he does not need to constantly reassure it, lift it by putting others down, defend it like a rabid dog… someone who is mature enough to live and love and just be, to be beyond ego-trips, grudges, power games. And foremost, not be fuckin ruled by his balls 24/7. Don’t tell me that men like that don’t exist because I have met them. Don’t give me simplistic explanations elaborating on the psyche of men, because they are no excuses for betraying and violating others.
But my problem is, I cannot take the risk. I just cannot cope with losing control over my body for a sec. And it is agony to have to explain to someone you love that you cannot bear them touching you without making them feel inferior and rejected. I know what I want that special person to be like. I just don't think I can deal with a relationship...not at this point in my life.
The thing that is in my way to happiness is that I can't give up control. It is strange because I feel like I am talking about someone else. And I think I am. When I pray, it's when my real self opens, that buried self, and I can't stop crying. Perhaps that is why I pray so little, or only with reservation... it's like the spirits that you summon you may not be able to control. You just don't want God to open the door of some closets, because the skeleton inside it may not be dead yet. I feel it rising to the surface sometimes, like a bubble of tears, of pain. My self that was wrapped by my new self is somewhere in me, cradled. Both are real. My everyday self is no pretense. It is the self that makes me function and live a normal life. I have cut that old self off from me so I can go on.
I realised this in the past days. I realised this when Bob asked me why I was on Prozac, and he couldn't imagine why I would need it, because I had always seemed like such a stable person to him. "And don't tell me the drugs do that," he said. Well, they don't. This is me. The giggly, bubbly person you see everyday. The other one is in me, and I have shut her up since I was about 17.
How weird it was to see the split, to realise I had blamed myself for the abuse. Which is crazy, because I had told myself for so long it wasn’t. How can you feel something different inspite of yourself?
But that was my intellectual self. The intellect is mere theory. That was never the girl that got hurt. Patty Smartiepants knew he had done wrong, that it wasn't my fault. I hadn't invited him. I was 12. There was nothing sexually attractive about me. But Little Patty didn’t know that. Little Patty only saw the old man that stared at her undeveloped chest, grunted at her when she wore light summer clothes, touched secretly, held hands too long and too weird, called her sexy and whatnot, even called her little 9-year-old friend “hot”, the old man she never wanted to be alone in the room with, the old man that once was the only one who understood her, who she trusted fully, and who now scared the hell out of her.
How could I not feel that I had caused this, when anything I did or wore, no matter how harmless, caused him to get off?
How could I not feel guilty because I hadn't protected myself, even though what he did and continued to do felt so wrong?
I felt I couldn't say anything against him because no one would believe me. In fact, I was the only one who noticed how fucked up stuff is. But how is truth determined? By majority. And if the majority says it wasn't abuse, then it wasn't. Did I then have the right to defend myself, to stand up for myself, to secure my boundaries?
When I sat in that counselling office, Jackson addressed my inner self. She told me I could have done nothing to protect myself, or to stop him, and that it wasn't my fault, and for the first time since that happened I wanted to cry, because I realised fully what he had done to me.
And I realised that I did feel guilty, even though I had told myself all these years that I wasn't. And I realised that even though I had brushed it off and decided to not let it get to me, even though I decided to have a normal life, to just leave it in the past, it has changed everything for me. It has changed the way I chose my boyfriends. It has changed the way I think about myself and the way I treat myself, the way I see my limits, the way I protect myself. My body seems to have gone its own way, and I have lost all power over how it feels, responds. I can't do anything about it. And all this happened without me noticing. How crazy is that????
I wonder if that is why I feel so anxious all the time, so panicky of losing control over my life. I wish I knew the source of it, but I don’t think I am enough in touch with myself to be sure.
There is something about fusing the split that I experience sometimes, like a hint, like a promise. I mean, why would you want to join something back together if all that it promises is joining you to pain, terror, repulsion.
The other night, on the bus, I looked at the rain clouds, and I was mildly tipsy, and alcohol can reveal these things to you. Alcohol breaks down walls, barriers inside you. That can be bad, and it's not the best way to do it, but it can show you a way... which you then should pursue by different means.
I have gotten used to seeing things like they are emotionally two-dimensional. I am so used to it that I can find joy in it sometimes. I have forgotten what it is like to feel really really alive, to feel, experience something to the fullest. Seeing a rain cloud on two emotional dimensions is seeing something grey and flat above something brown and flat, which is a row of houses, and it is all stale and dead to look at, and there is nothing in it. Seeing something to the fullest means experiencing all of it, its ugliness and beauty. I had a glimpse of it tonight, the clouds hanging deep, like grey soggy and misty sponges over the houses with their drenched bricks and promises of warmth and comfort behind lit windows, the steady drum of raindrops, even the wind that howled, it was all part of a bigger whole, like a fantastic painting, a symphony of experience raising anticipation and eliciting a cascade of response in anyone who cares to see. That never happens when you are split, when you are two-dimensional. You lose your ability to experience. There was a wholesome richness to it that promised that this is how things ought to be, like a nurturing connectedness to all that is around you, that is missing if you cut yourself off from yourself.
Man is not clever enough to create a complex experience for himself from scratch, he needs to be whole in soul to do that. Splitting yourself will kill that for certain. The fine-tuning of the human soul is too sensitive for our clumsy fingers and senses.
It is a self-protective strategy.
You can feel something two-dimensional, and it will hurt less if it is painful, but there will also be less joy in it if it is good. You have to choose what you prefer... and I preferred less painful.
And I paid for it with life.
It is hard to write about this because I know how difficult it is for people to deal with at times. I mean, what do you do with that kind of knowledge? I have friends who have become careful about hugging me because they think I may feel harassed, and I appreciate their concern, but that is the whole point. I want to be hugged. I want to be loved. I want to be close to people. I just don’t want anyone to take advantage of the situation. To use me and my body for personal satisfaction while pretending to be “just friends”.
I believe in straightforward honesty for that very reason. I do not believe in those stupid social games that are all about deception and playing and doing the social dance thing. Playing is betrayal of trust from the beginning.