Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Drowning with Rage and Boiling with Sorrow

I seem to be feeling pretty angry recently. For me, anger and sadness go hand in hand, and sometimes what manifests itself as extreme rage turns out to be hurt or loss. I think it goes back to the places I found myself in life. Often, it was unsafe to cry, or to express any emotion. Angered by any hint of upset on my part, my ex would tell me to 'shut the fuck up or I'll give you something to cry about'. Or then sometimes he'd demand that I cry - he'd get off on it. Either way, it all became entangled in the games of power and control I found myself in, and I guess it's not surprising that it takes some moving on from.

Patience isn't my strong point and so much of the time I find myself berating myself for not being 'sorted', for still struggling with my past. My logical voice tells me I should give myself a break, show myself a little compassion, that I've been through enough and don't need to add to the pain, to the shame. But still, it's a work in progress. I find it so bloody hard to be good to myself! So much easier, always, to do the old thing, self destruct. Cut myself. Binge and purge. Starve myself. Take risks... In recovery, I'm really working hard to change old patterns, and its' exhausting. Accepting my body as me and mine means accepting that what happened happened to me, not to something 'other' or apart. It means acknowledging that everytime my body was beaten and sold, I was beaten and sold. That's a hard pill to swallow.

If it sounds blatantly obvious that me and my body are one and the same, it's worth saying that it's not obvious to me. Years of splitting, of dissociating, consciously or otherwise, of acting as the observer, an outsider, watching this body, these thoughts, detached and separate, leave me fragmented. Watching him shout at me, I'd find myself strangely calm, almost mesmerised. I can see his lips moving, but I can't really hear him, see words forming, but they don't mean anything. In my mind, I dissect each word and spell out each letter with precision. There's spittle forming on his lip. I see that this man will hit this woman, but it doesn't really matter, because that's not really me. I observe at a distance.

I'm told (and I've read - I do a lot of reading on this stuff now, to better understand myself, to recover) that such splitting is a product of extreme trauma - a defence mechanism. Unable to remove myself from the abuse physically, I sought to distance myself mentally, doing the only thing I could. The mind's a remarkable tool. Buddhists often speak of simply observing thoughts and feelings coming and going, they speak of impermanence and non-attachment, and that makes a good deal of sense to me.

But here, 3 years clean and sober, I'm in that tricky process of putting those pieces together again, of turning that brokenness into something whole. It's slow progress and painful. I've sought therapy, and I work the programme on a daily basis. I'm doing a lot of work around blame and shame at the moment, so it's not surprising my emotions are all over. When you've been told by the men that abuse you that you deserve what's happening to you, worse, that you make them do that to you, and you're isolated and afraid and full of fear and self loathing for the drink and the drugs, you believe it. And I'm finding that even though rationally I can see that what happened wasn't my fault, that the blame and the shame belong to the perpetrators, my emotions are taking a while to catch up. If this was anyone else, I would have no problem with that. But, it's that old story, while I can be compassionate and objective with others, I find it extremely painful and difficult to apply that same care and thinking to myself.

I'm so angry! At my ex for the extreme physical, verbal and sexual abuse he put me through. At the men who used me, who forced me, who knew that I didn't want to have sex, who slapped me about and laughed at me and fucked me anyway. At the men who made money, who took pictures and filmed what was done. At my ex for beating me and making me perform for these men like an animal, just to get a fix. At the doctors and nurses in A&E for judging me and treating me like shit on those occasions I was able to seek medical help. And I'm angry at myself for still feeling responsible for things that were way out of my control.

I'm angry at myself for being angry at myself (which makes absolutely zero sense, I know).

But underneath the anger, and I've seen a few glimpses this past couple of weeks, is just a deep, deep sadness for what happened to me, at what happens to women in this country every day. I've been told I was lucky to survive it, and I was. I believed absolutely he would kill me if he so wished - he'd told me as much. When you live through that, you lose so many things, and I feel like I'm grieving for some of that stuff now. You lose faith in people, in their humanity. But most of all, you lose yourself. When you're constantly having to mold yourself in a desperate attempt to avoid a beating, you don't know who you are anymore. When you act like an animal in order to survive, you hate yourself. When your body's not your own and men touch you and fuck you and hurt you and use you and you are powerless to stop them, you lose your dignity. Everything is taken from you: you don't belong to yourself.

My body, my mind, did what they could to protect me at the time. But here and now, what once protected me can isolate and damage me. I guess I need to be a little more gentle with myself. After all, there are no quick fixes in recovery. I am doing what I can, and getting help. When I'm measuring my progress by that of other people, I need to remember that given what went on, I'm doing ok. I am ok. I didn't used to believe that, but you know, most days, I do now. Angry or sad, tired or down, I am ok.


  1. With regard miss. You speak of detachment in ways that almost make me relive the act of detatching, and the events that cause it. You talk of the loss of self and that constant chameleon shifting when constantly conforming to the mind games of others. It's beautiful and painful to read. With respect ... With regard ... It's amazing to see the manure that flowers will grow from. Good luck miss. Thank you for having the strength to write.

  2. I understand how you feel - my stepfather sexually abused me and treated me violently between the ages of 11-14 and I detached at that age. I was lucky enough not to have to sell my body to survive, but the detachment remained and, I think, always will. Now 49, I no longer have sexual relationships because the early abuse meant that I 'performed' sexually for men; at no point did I experience my own sexuality. Now I am not interested. I feel sad that my sexuality was warped by a pedophile, but am grateful that I am in control of my body at last. My advice is to aim for peace of mind - the rest will take care of itself.