Saturday, 10 September 2011

To Trust or Not to Trust

I'm really struggling with trust at the moment. It's the kind of thing you don't notice in your everyday interactions with others until it's gone and you find the whole business of communicating with others, interacting with others, a maze and a nightmare. In recovery, through a huge conscious effort on my part, my ability to trust has grown a little. By the time I got into recovery, my trust was shot to shit. I didn't trust anyone, male or female. I felt sold out, betrayed, not simply by the men who abused me but by the whole system, the way our whole society's geared up to turn a blind eye to such abuse and classify it as fun. I felt angry at the middle class worldview in which I was brought up, which left me so totally unprepared for what happened to me that I didn't even have the vocabulary for it. Pimping. That was a word I came to only after 2 years of getting clean and sober. My ex pimped me. At the time, with the fear and through the haze of substances and head injuries I couldn't have said what was going on. In fact, I largely lost my ability to talk at all. Rape. That's another one. I think like many people I grew up believing that rape was something that only a stranger commits. The idea that a partner might rape me, and frequently, and a circle of others some of whom grew familiar to me was so far removed from my understanding that I couldn't understand it. It's a word I still can't say out loud. I could maybe now just about manage 'made me have sex'.

The professionals I encountered in the midst of this enforced this confusion, and multiplied my sense of shame. On the rare visits I made to hospital with injuries, it was made clear to me that this was my fault. I was treated with disbelief and palpable hostility - 'she's going back to him'. People spoke over me as if I was not there, and didn't even try to understand. He was in my house, and my money was tied up in my house, and I was scared and lost and struggling with an addiction beyond my control. I didn't understand why this was happening, I didn't know what to do. Brought up to trust in the medical profession, I didn't know where to turn.

When I got sober, I realised that to stay sober I was going to have to do things a bit different. I heard other people sharing about their feelings, and with the help of a few good people around me I began to make sense of what I was feeling. In early recovery, I just felt - bleugh - that was about as articulate as I could manage. Years of burying emotions, splitting off from myself, numbing myself out and detaching made it hard for me to handle any feelings at all. They threatened to overwhelm me. Identifying and labelling emotions - anger, fear, sadness - took time.

But there remained, even as I began to be more open and honest about how I was feeling, large swathes of my life about which I simply could not talk. The violence, the pimping, the filming of that abuse, stayed for me unspeakable. That was one of the reasons behind me starting this blog back in 2009: as I began to put a narrative to what had happened, as more stuff came back to me, I realised that this stuff had to go somewhere, or else I would go mad. Unable to say it aloud, and mistrustful of others on matters of this weight to me, I chose to write and just put it out there. I had a voice but without a face, I could be honest without dealing with another persons reaction to me, to this.

I have at times managed to speak a little about this stuff. I saw a therapist for a year and began to try to talk about some of it. It was incredibly raw, incredibly painful. There were long silences and I worried that I might pass out or throw up. And about his reaction. Because it was in my first year of recovery, I was still struggling for the vocab. Trying to open up a little to other people has been much less successful. I've found that even with decent people, people I count as friends, their worldview simply has no space for what I've experienced. In a society saturated by porn, which makes light of violence against women, and when a woman is raped or beaten tends to say 'well, she did go back to him / give the wrong signals / lead him on / have a drink / wind him up' it's hard to know where to go when you're struggling with the after effects of being abused. Women are in my experience often just as judgmental, and just as likely to take the side of the abuser.

This year, I've lost my last parent. That has made a big difference to my ability to trust. I've really gone backwards. Because we're not great at death in this country, I've had some negative reactions to my loss, a couple of friends have avoided me (their stuff, I know, but painful nonetheless), a few people have made comments along the lines of 'well you've just got to get on with life' (I know that! What do you think I'm fucking doing?) which translates as 'please don't talk about this' and it has reignited my total mistrust. I trust no one. My closest ally at the moment is my pet dog.

Which leaves me in a pickle because obviously this isn't going to work, I have to trust people to stay sober, but it's really hard. I am scared and lonely and so lost right now, I don't even trust myself to choose the right people to talk to. I've just begun therapy again, which is positive, and I'm having to fight against all my defensive instincts to actually let him help me. I want to be close to people, I want to love and be loved, but I'm not sure I know how to do that anymore, which makes me so sad I might cry if I only let myself. I guess I'll have to 'act as if' and just try being honest against all my instincts. In truth, I've managed on my own for too long in the past, battling on, and I'm tired, and I don't think I can do it any more.

I'm at a jumping off point. I just hope I land on terra firma, not in the shit.


  1. Hi Angel, it is good to hear from you again. I understand about the trust issues - have you thought of having a female therapist? I found that this removed a lot of the sexual dynamic stuff immediately, and helped me to share my stuff without worrying that a man was getting off on it, or that I would fall into a 'pleasing the man so he would like me' trap. Meanwhile, it is tiring, very tiring, trying to move forward. The hardest, but most needed, work you will ever do. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Angel,Your honesty means the world to me. I wish you much courage and strength. I have commented before that you are able to put words to experiences I have shared, but cannot. Your blog gives me hope that I am not alone. Thank you. V.