“Good Survivor”

I am not one of those people whose abuse made them more empathetic.

I have not “made something good” out of my experiences.

I have not become one of those people who has dedicated their lives to helping victims and survivors.

I am not a soft, kind, positive survivor that is the typical “good survivor” model.

I do not believe in forgiveness and don’t buy into the opinion that it’s for the benefit of yourself, not for others.  I think people conflate “forgiveness” with “letting go”.  I don’t believe forgiveness is a requirement for healing.

I think people want you to stop talking about your abuse and stop making them face how uncomfortable they are and how you and your experiences distort their world view.  They don’t want you to inconvenience them.  They don’t want to realize how senseless and ugly the world and the people in it can be on a personal level.

I do not believe “everything happens for a reason”.  I believe people assign meaning to things and scramble to find ways to make things less painful with this phrase.

I do not believe abuse is a requirement or a consolation prize to becoming a strong person.

I do not believe you need to find a silver lining or find anything positive in abuse you endured.  I internally retch any time I read what amounts to people trying to build a case for “post-traumatic growth”.  I mean, if that’s what you need to tell yourself to make it through the day and your recovery, then you do you.

I do not believe trauma survivors “cling to” the label/identity of being a survivor because they “don’t know who they’d be without” their trauma.  Trauma changes the brain, stop with the social media enlightenment.

Survivors are not required to become comforting and resilient role models.  We’re not required to become softer and kinder to be valid and respected.  Not all of us feel more for others because we “know what it’s like”.

Can we have more recognition of the bitter and deeply angry survivors?  The ones who became less empathetic as a result?  The ones who aren’t devoting their lives to helping survivors because that’s not their job just because they’re also a survivor?  The ones who don’t feel socially acceptable? The ones who are so incredibly angry every day and don’t know what to do with that anger and feel it will smother them?

What about survivors who have less “socially acceptable” or even “outlandish” tales of abuse to tell?  It seems like #MeToo left out a nice chunk of survivors.

What about survivors who have no “pre-trauma” identity or sense of self because their abuse occurred in childhood?  What about the survivors who are trying their best to recover but are not and will never be a “good survivor”?   The survivors who are jealous and resentful of those who get justice in the eyes of the law when they didn’t, and/or never will?  The survivors who see others moving on with their lives and dating and marrying and having children and feel like they’re failing in comparison?  The survivors who feel broken and defective?

How many others are out there that may just be saying what they hope are the right things to be viewed favorably when they discuss their experiences?  Or maybe not viewed favorably, but even just not outright shunned?

The hard, bitter, angry survivors deserve the same as the “good survivors”.  Maybe if they felt heard, validated, supported, and met where they are in their feelings, the anger and bitterness could be honored, acknowledged, and the pressure of those would lessen.  Isolation and being ignored will only make it worse.

It’s hard to “sit with”, “hold space for”, and listen to an angry, bitter survivor.  From the perspective of one of those, let me say that I find it hard to listen to positive or “good” survivors.  Can’t relate.

We really need to acknowledge these types of survivors and listen to them the same way we would to the others we find more palatable.

(P.S. – I will state outright I am not looking for unsolicited advice or consolation in response to this post.)

Sleep and Beds

Last night, for the first time I can remember, I intentionally and successfully slept in the middle of my bed, and on my back!

TW / CW just in case for vague mentions of past abusive situation.

That probably seems like a really simple thing, as does a bed.  But for people who have experienced abuse in bedrooms, on beds, etc. it can be anything but simple.

All my life I have been a side sleeper, turned to the right, on at least two pillows.  Even when I had only a twin bed, I’d be curled up on the very edge (which was the style I kept up until I lost my balance in 2016 and kept falling out of bed and my family set me up with a regular full-size mattress).  Even with the full-size mattress I now have, up until last night I have still remained curled up on the right edge, and every attempt to sleep differently resulted in me waking up in my usual position.  I don’t think my body truly knows how to relax, even in sleep.

Also, while we’re on the subject – I never got the big deal about making fun of twin beds.  Mine was functional because I was the only one using it and preferred more space in my room to pace while daydreaming than a bed taking up that space.  And, frankly, in my mind a narrow bed would make it harder for anyone else to potentially get in my bed with me in it.

I still refuse to have a headboard or any kind of bed frame that has the four posts extended upward, so yes, my bed looks rather plain and just…kind of…there.  Like it’s not quite finished yet, though it is.  I opted for a very minimal and difficult to access frame for reasons related to the past.

Recently I’ve had to slowly adjust my sleeping positions more and more to accommodate chronic widespread pain, and to not worsen it or pop anything out of place by how I intentionally go to bed.  So last night, with aching neck, back, and shoulder-blades, I made the decision to sleep in the middle, on my back, surrounded by pillows I now can’t use under my neck because it hurts to do so.  I placed them on either side, because since the vestibular issues in 2016, it was recommended I have something against me while sleeping so it would trick my body into feeling anchored instead of the awful body-floating-upward-or-dropping-out sensation.

As a child, before certain abusive events would happen, I would “sleep” (pretend to sleep) on my right side so I could face the wall and feel more secure.  Straight up or on my left side were not safe.

So last night, making the decision to lie on my back was a big deal and quite a progressive step.  Of course, I didn’t do it out of any intentional trauma recovery objective; I did it because of my body and desperation from pain.  But the decision naturally involved weighing potential trauma response, and gave me some insight into my current thinking surrounding a trigger.  Thankfully nighttime sleeping in itself is not a trigger for me in regards to sleep (daytime naps in a bed are, however), so I am fortunate I had that working for me.  I experienced maybe a few seconds of flashbackiness and a couple of minutes of vague mental discomfort, but was able to ground myself and stay in the present.  I fell asleep shortly after, slept soundly, and woke in the same position I fell asleep in!  Success!

I aim to do the same tonight and as long as I can after that to give myself the best chance to see whether or not it helps the chronic pain even a little.

So that’s just a small little unexpected victory for me that I thought I’d share!

 

11/21/2019

I feel like I have nothing to say, yet I feel like I have so much to say that I’ll implode if I don’t get it off my chest.  But I can’t because I don’t know what it is.

I feel like I do nothing but talk and write and overshare in both mediums, and yet still feel like I’m not hitting the mark; like I’m missing a key piece of what I’m trying to express or accomplish.  And it leaves me feeling frustrated, ashamed, hollow, disconnected, and weirdly desperate.  Then it makes me not want to try in the first place to do…whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish by speaking openly about my life and experiences with DID and the struggles related to that.

If I’m too “negative” (aka realistic and matter-of-fact) about topics that are inherently depressing, I’m sure to be labeled as “toxic” (the web’s new favorite buzzword) or “depressing”.  If I’m too nonchalant, then “it can’t be that bad”.  If I come across too strong, I’m “inspiring” and other compliments that make me squirm.   Or I can come across too strong and be seen as lecturing and unapproachable, or able to handle myself just fine even if I outright state I’m struggling and could use support.  If I bluntly write about the realities of abuse, trauma, and DID then I’m sure to be labeled “triggering”.  Or “attention-seeking”.  Some readers/viewers want survivors online to spill all the details so they can revel in the horror of it all second-hand.  Like we’re a true crime documentary.  Some don’t want even a hint of details and then try to silence survivors just like abusers tried to.  And if I write about trauma at all, I’m sure some people are rolling their eyes and wondering why I continue to write about and “wallow” in the past.  And I’m sure my story and I are simply altogether “too much” for some people – I get it, it’s too much for me, too.

So really, there’s no “winning” at being vocal about all this.  You can’t please everyone, and you at times can’t even please your own wishes for a variety of reasons.  And I’m not just talking about what I see related to my own content in this post, I’m talking about other online survivors and their content as well, so please don’t think I’m singling you out.

I know that people are more comfortable hearing about and discussing the kinds of topics I am open about if it’s removed from them, happening somewhere else – anywhere else, and to someone they don’t know.  I can’t say “someone they don’t care about” because it makes me feel icky to think people care about me, because I don’t understand how they can or why they would, and it feels egotistical to assume I matter to anyone.

Maybe once in a while they’ll share something on social media from a survivor or about topics related to that content, or maybe they just “like” what a survivor writes and then move on with their day and forget about it and it fizzles out, not for lack of trying.  Or maybe they feel they can’t or shouldn’t say anything because they can’t “fix it”.  A lot of the time, survivors just want to feel heard, seen, and validated.  Simply sit with us and our feelings, even virtually.  You can’t “fix it” and you can’t “fix us”.  That is probably frustrating.  But are we asking you to fix anything, or to simply be there?

If only survivors and mental health professionals are writing about, liking, re-sharing taboo topics…what’s the point?  Isn’t that just another echo chamber?  Preaching to the choir?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that people are consuming the content, but we just don’t know because they’re not interacting for any given reason.  So it’s silent support.  Support in any fashion is fantastic, but silence doesn’t accomplish much (says the girl who never shuts up).  And it’s easy to see online interaction trends and see even when someone else does share something and there is silence until they’re back to their usual posting.

These topics aren’t a passing trend.  You can hit your “snooze” button on someone on social media because you’re tired of their reality, but if it’s their reality, they’re not magically going to stop talking about it after the 30 day snooze or the stealthy unfollowing (just unfriend the person, come on now).

And look, no one is obligated to engage with content at all or do anything with the content and their thoughts about it afterward.  But it just seems to be this microcosm for society at large.  So I find it very telling.  And it’s interesting to see what type of uncomfortable content gets engagement, going back to the aforementioned ways you’ll be viewed based on how you present what you’re talking about.

Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to educate or connect.  Be understood, feel heard, feel seen.  I don’t want to be some dry, educational factory machine when people can find plenty of factual information in books, articles, documents, through advocates who have online platforms with educational content, or even through a simple search online to do their own research.

Am I trying to de-stigmatize a demonized and misunderstood condition?  And taboo subjects?  Am I trying to bring it to the light even though it makes people uncomfortable?  Maybe…but just by being myself, I guess?  Because these things are just inherently a part of my life.

I’m well aware I’m not all that interesting and that these days, video platforms are the way to go, but that doesn’t seem to be for me for a variety of reasons.  I also know that I am well into my recovery journey, both with the trauma itself as well as DID, and therefore there’s not sensationalized drama to keep up with.

I don’t feel a clear sense of what I’m trying to do, or why.  And if that isn’t just the mirror being held up to my general feelings about my life and future right now, I don’t know what is.

Back in 2013 I was focused more on de-stigmatization and education.  Using my life, talking frankly about it, making art out of it, and not overloading with technical explanations.  So there was an element of connection as well.

As time has gone on, I’m feeling more and more like a broken record.  Especially because I’m sure it’s mostly the same people in my life who are graciously consuming my content.

Sometimes I want to be seen and known in the way that isn’t barred by this generic, “well everyone knows my life so there is no intimacy between us”.  There are some things I cannot and will not write here, especially about specifics and specific events/aspects of the childhood abuse.  The potential risks outweigh the benefits.  I even had a brief post about this in the works, but even felt that wasn’t safe enough to post here even though it was very vague about my internal conflicts regarding what I’m self-restrained from writing.

There are certain realities I must adhere to for safety because anyone, including abusers, can find this blog and read it.  But at the same time, there are burning secrets sitting inside that empty space in my chest.

It’s like opening up an old photo album and wanting to describe a picture to someone but not being allowed to use adjectives or nouns.

I’m vulnerable on my online platforms.  I’m vulnerable from the safety of my own room, through a screen, with delayed judgement – the equivalent of writing a vulnerable letter and putting it on someone’s seat, telling them to read it when you’re out of the house.  And then in person, that vulnerability vanishes.  I’m not even sure I know how to connect with people anymore in person with any emotion.  Then the feeling of “otherness”and the gap I feel between me and other people just feels wider and more cemented.

I am proud of the fact that I am honest, real, and straightforward about everything.  Maybe to a fault; it depends on who you ask and in what context.  And if anyone who reads even one post on this blog learns something or becomes curious or more open-minded about these topics, that’s fantastic.  I truly appreciate anyone who takes the time to read a post, comment, share, reach out about something that resonated within them.  Please don’t think I’m not deeply grateful for you all or that I’m saying you’re “not enough”.

There is something inside me that doesn’t feel satisfied no matter what I’m saying or how I’m saying it or how anyone responds to what I’m saying.  In a way, I feel like I will never be truly known or fully honest because there are some things that will never be written or spoken.  And I dance around those things with a sense of foreboding and a childish feeling of “I’ll get into trouble”.  So I word-vomit everything else constantly, but in that empty space in my chest, I hold the things that can’t be known.  And I’m not trying to be dishonest by doing that, but that’s just the way it is.  So people “know me” and “know my life”… and I know that people say online you only know what people want to show.  I’m pretty good at showing a balance of good, bad, ugly.  And yet, people are still only seeing what I show even then.  I might write about a topic, but I’m writing about it vaguely and omitting things I wish I could verbalize.  So much self-editing goes on.

I feel like I still hold secrets no one can ever know outside of the therapy session, and it’s such a lonely, isolating sensation.  With the magnitude of it all, I feel no one, not even one person, will ever truly know me.  Maybe that’s it.  I am “known, seen, and heard” but not in a real way even though I’m being real.  Like people will only ever have pieces of me.  Even Therapist, who of course won’t know my regular outside life because we only have so much time to focus on specific things.  Even Therapist won’t know all of me.  Therapist will have the pieces I can’t share with other people, even people in person in my offline life, such as it is.

I really hope this makes sense.  I wouldn’t call myself an advocate, I don’t have an agenda, I’m just rambling, I’m just stringing together words with some difficulty to make the blog posts slightly coherent.  I’m typing and saying things that mean something and yet mean nothing, and I start to feel like a little heavy-topic ghost who shows up now and then with no real purpose or meaning, who desperately has a message to pass on from beyond the grave, but can’t because there are certain things they cannot say.  I do actually worry that when I die, I’ll be in limbo, wandering the world as a ghost and never being able to move on because none of the living people will hear me and the things I need to say before being at peace.  I already feel like that, but you know…alive.

 

Health News and Eating Honesty

How do you like the weird title of this post?  I couldn’t do any better than that.  Whoops.

I went to the doctor last month to try to figure out the unexplained chronic pain and fatigue.  I then had a blood test to rule some things out (a big deal considering how huge of a phobia that is!) and got results.  There is still no explanation for the fatigue and pain, so we are now looking into Fibromyalgia to see if that’s what’s going on with those issues.  But that’s not the focus of this post.

I’ll try to keep this brief.  This is a very vulnerable and shame-filled topic for me, and something that I haven’t really talked about in a cohesive way to…anyone, really.  So please go easy on me, because this is hard to admit to even myself.

Below the “continue reading”, I will be talking about the health results – Diabetes – and also some eating issues/disordered eating behaviors related to that.  I’ll be fairly blunt about those, but won’t mention numbers or include pictures.  So this has been a caution/trigger warning for you surrounding eating, food, disordered eating behaviors, etc.

Continue reading “Health News and Eating Honesty”

11/02/2019

I’ve been struggling with writing a post about my birthday.  It either inevitably swings to something negative or something forced-positive.  Honestly, I don’t even know how I feel about today anymore or what it means to me, especially with current physical health results: some unhappy answers already and some still pending.

Maybe its enough to just say that today I am thirty years old, and I don’t need to have any specific feelings about that, and will just let whatever I feel come as it does.

It’s a bit surreal because I never expected to live this long for some reason (foreshortened sense of future, thanks PTSD!) and in fact had also never intended to let myself live to see this specific age because for a large portion of my life I was chronically suicidal and had set my expiration date for 30, so now that I legitimately want to live, I struggle with that lifetime self-expectation of not living past this age, especially when I haven’t accomplished any of my self-imposed arbitrary deadlines for life events.

I wish I could tell you I feel like a “real” adult instead of a floundering teenager in an adult’s body.  But I’m learning slowly.  Taking adult life things in small chunks and trying to understand things because it all feels so foreign to me.  I’m trying to make up for lost time, quite literally.

Birthdays bring with them this almost bittersweet mix of emotion.  Mostly, I think, it’s related to the passage of time, and me reflecting back on just how much of my own life I can’t remember or missed out on.  Most people laugh and say, “How am I thirty?  Where has the time gone?”  Add amnesia and DID to that.

I become overwhelmed when I think of how much life I’ve missed out on, though it simultaneously feels as if I’ve lived a thousand lives all together.  It’s been a mishmash life with a lot jam-packed into it.

So I guess what it all boils down to is that I don’t have specific feelings about this birthday, which has held more significance than it usually would because now I want to live past thirty and did not do/will not do what my past self wanted me to do on my thirtieth birthday.

I am spending my birthday at a slow, gentle pace with my family in a lovely location – my happy place – and it doesn’t get better than that.

Here’s to 30 years and hopefully many more!

 

10/16/2019

I notice and feel good about the fact that my sessions lately seem to be focused on current life and everyday things people struggle with.  That doesn’t mean we don’t talk about the past; the past impacts a lot of current “normal life” issues.  It just isn’t the focus lately, and the DID hasn’t really been the focus, which is sometimes a nice breath of fresh air.

I’m glad I’m able to focus on things like: what gives me a sense of purpose?  What kind of life can I make for myself even though I never envisioned living this long or having any future?  What healthy things do I feel I’m missing in life that may be contributing to this pervasive feeling of emptiness?

And a big one: What are thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that were caused/influenced by trauma versus what I would actually think, feel, and perceive on my own?  The reality is I’ll never know the answer to that hypothetical because I’ve never known myself without trauma influencing me since childhood.  That makes me sad and angry, and I feel robbed once again.

I find myself flustered because lately I seem to be exceptionally sensitive to and having complicated feelings surrounding content such as engagements and having children.  I’m almost 30, so as you can imagine, it’s content I see a lot of with people in my age group.  Therapist asked if these feelings and the grieving that comes with what could have been but might not happen are coming from Stacy, who always envisioned having a husband and children.  I don’t have an answer to that.  Regardless, these feelings and reactions are there and need to be tended to because they keep cropping up with increasing intensity.

I don’t understand why this is suddenly a touchy subject for me, considering “I” never wanted those life events for myself.  They weren’t for me.  I didn’t consider them important in my life or…at all.  I didn’t get how people could care about it.  I didn’t understand sitcom plots about infertility and why characters were upset they couldn’t conceive.  I didn’t understand the constant pursuit of relationships.  I didn’t understand why moving in together and marriage were goals.

Now recently I’m starting to feel this wave of uneasiness because I am wondering if something is wrong with me in regards to these big, normal, life events.  I feel like I don’t belong.  I feel “other” about this.  And over the past few months, I’ve been feeling a creeping, unsettling sense of “am I missing out?”

Did I just think these things weren’t for me because of trauma?  Did I just think I didn’t deserve “good” or “normal” things in life?  I can’t even remember what I wanted for myself growing up.  Suddenly I’m questioning everything and every belief.  What beliefs about myself, others, life in general, were shaped and tainted by trauma?  What narrative did I believe about myself and life and other people?  How did that then influence my behaviors and choices?

I feel like it’s too late to make any big life changes, even if I wanted to, based on all these new things coming up.  I’m not saying it’s a fact that it’s too late for some things, but it’s a feeling I have.

Realistically, I will never be a parent.  And I don’t think I should be, honestly, for my sanity and the sake of the kid.  I’ll leave it at that instead of launching into a longer justification of why I shouldn’t have kids.  Just trust me on it.  There are a lot of legitimate reasons I don’t want to get into with strangers who may read this blog.  A lot of people seem to have an opinion on my decision to not have children, and I’m not interested in arguing about something so personal, especially not with people who have no clue what they’re talking about in regards to my life and circumstances.

As far as relationships, I find myself more up in the air.  I don’t see myself ever moving in with someone or marrying someone, because I don’t like to feel like my space is invaded or that I’m vulnerable to another person.  I get very agitated when people are around the house and feel like I can’t make noise, feel like people are keeping tabs on me, and am on guard constantly without realizing it, no matter who I’m sharing the house with.  I also am someone who needs a lot of alone time.

The thought of even trying to date when I have all these physical issues that may never go away, plus all this mental/emotional baggage that will impact interpersonal relationships (if it doesn’t flat-out scare people away first) especially of any vulnerable or intimate manner, makes the whole idea of relationships seem pointless.  Add in the whole aversion to even the idea of sex thing and the physical damage that would make it excruciatingly painful if not almost impossible to partake in sex anyway even if I ever decided I wanted to.

It’s all exhausting to think about and it’s easier to just shut it down mentally and push it all away again.  “Not for me.  I don’t want that anyway.  Just not my thing.”

A life without relationships certainly seems simpler, but am I missing out on some vital human experience along the way?  And am I missing out because I don’t want it or because trauma told me I don’t want it?

I wish I could understand how survivors of childhood sexual abuse can date, have sex, have children, get married, live with some person in the same house…any of it.  I don’t understand.  And why am I different from those of them that can do these things?

So now mentally I’m up against these current realities of a life I certainly never envisioned would be my future, and suddenly noticing that something is being triggered and activated in me in regards to these things I spent my whole life disavowing.

I foresee myself wading through this for a while in therapy.  I don’t need to have it all figured out right now.  Recognizing all this and even admitting to it in the first place is a big deal.  Though it scares me how heavy it feels, like I’m drowning internally and will burst open with the heaviness of it all.  It makes me tired.

I don’t know why this stuff feels harder to talk about than even some of the things I’ve been through.

10/07/2019

“I saw a picture of a random guy and automatically thought, ‘wow, he’s cute!'”

“And how did you feel about having that thought?” – Therapist, eagerly positioning her pen over her notepad, a note of excitement in her voice – probably because I’m even voicing this and she’s expecting me to call myself a “whore” as usually happens.

“Fine.  I mean, I didn’t beat myself up over it or feel the need to punish myself, so…fine.  And it was just a passing thought.  It was mostly just weird to have that thought at all, and to feel like a regular girl.”

So this small non-event was meaningful for two reasons:

  1. I thought someone was attractive.
  2. I did not have automatic negative thoughts toward myself for finding someone attractive.

Both of those things are significant and also happen so rarely.  Of course, I’m able to be like, “so and so is conventionally good looking and aesthetically pleasing”, but I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve personally found someone “attractive”.

Also, I’ve realized that the more “myself” I am, and the less palatable I try to force myself to be, the more I seem to be “hit on”.  It’s kind of funny.  My whole life, this has been an uncomfortable challenge: noticed, looked at, hit on, asked out, complimented (especially on appearance).  Mostly I think, “what is wrong with you, dude?” when a guy wants to date me.  And a lot of the time I feel physically ill at being put in the position of knowing someone is interested in me, and not knowing what to do or how to best respond in a way that won’t provoke their rejection shame-turned-to-anger reactions if it may be dangerous to me.

It has always felt immensely threatening to receive male attention, especially of a flirtatious or romantic manner.  It makes me feel trapped, scared, vulnerable, dirty, and angry.

Jade used to take great pride in her appearance, and while she enjoyed male attention (for sometimes the wrong reasons) she never felt anything emotionally for anyone.  Stacy used to be the one to get typical intense “crushes” on boys throughout our life.  If the crush even began to get anywhere or the boy reciprocated interest (or vice versa), Holly would shut it down.  During any dating, Holly would feel the need to let the boy know that she was not to be messed with and in fact was the one in control and he’d better watch his step.  (She wouldn’t convey this “as Holly” – meaning she wouldn’t announce herself and her self-protective agenda – she would just seem like a confusing cold shoulder or sudden bad mood or mixed signal.)

Therapist likes to talk about this whole, “how do you feel about thoughts/feeling about men and/or relationships and/or sexuality” thing.  And I don’t have an answer.  Maybe neutrality about the thought or feeling, as in the example at the beginning, is enough.  That in itself is leaps and bounds from where I used to be.

(Please note that I do not think romantic and/or sexual relationships are a requirement to live a happy, fulfilling life.)

I’m generally uncomfortable with male attention in almost any capacity, and I’m realizing just how much, because I’m not fully switching as much since the three merges, so I’m becoming more self-aware and learning things about myself and my reactions to things.  Jade is not separate anymore to be a male-attention-escape-hatch.  Holly is not separate anymore to scare them off like she could.  Megan is not separate anymore to remain frozen in indecision until she thinks she’d rather be dead than have someone express interest and put her in that horrible position or make her feel exposed.  So I’m fully and painfully aware of interactions without losing time.

It’s interesting to observe myself interact with men and categorize them and try to discern where I stand with them, the nature of my relationship to/with them, and how I feel about them or how they make me feel, even in a friendship.

  • Has this man ever made me feel uncomfortable before?
  • Have I ever witnessed this man behaving in an angry or volatile manner?
  • Does this man respect my “no” in regards to any aspect of interaction?
  • Does this man appear to respect my “no” but then keep returning and phrasing things a different way, which I find to be a manipulation red flag guised as being oblivious?
  • Does this man treat me and other women in general with respect?  Without apparent underlying intentions?
  • Do I have any concrete reason based on past behavior to believe this man I know will harm me or cross my boundaries/make me uncomfortable?
  • Do I feel uncomfortable being alone with or making eye contact with this man?
  • Do I feel any internal alarm bells ringing?  Any gut feelings to stay away?
  • Do I feel anxiety, annoyance, or dread when I see this man in person or when I see he has contacted me in any other way?
  • Do my interactions with this man leave me feeling wrong, worried, anxious, with gnawing dread and a sinking stomach?  Do I dread the next time I will see them and have to acknowledge them? (Objectively and not based on my automatic fear response to even innocent male attention?)
  • Do I feel the need to keep this man at an emotional and/or physical distance?
  • Do I feel nervous around this man and feel the need to be a people-pleaser peacekeeper?
  • Can I not get a “read” on this man, leaving me feel like I’m guessing what they are thinking and feeling?
  • Does a man claim they “forgot” important things about me, my life, my reality when it suits them and/or they’ve made me uncomfortable?

Also of note is that I can now better recognize the difference between someone expressing attraction or a desire to date, and someone who makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t automatically assume that a man expressing interest in me means they’re awful and I should stay away from them and never speak to them again.  I remind myself that, most likely, these men don’t understand the kind of self-hatred, panic, and nausea that romantic or sexual interest can trigger in me, as if I’m in danger and/or I’ve done something wrong for a man being interested in me.  However, once they understand and are aware of that, if their behavior persists if I’ve declined their interest, that’s a warning sign to stay away from them or limit interaction as much as I can.

Learning to be okay with expressing my disinterest in dating, having a relationship, or having sexual interaction is another thing – I still do sometimes feel bad and guilty, or as if I’ve done something wrong even though the relief floods me for removing myself or them from the situation.  Even if I ever did want to go on a date again, I’m exhausted at the thought of being on guard the whole time, also dreading if they want to make any physical contact, and also not knowing how up front to be about the fact of DID and maybe not ever wanting them to touch me.  How soon is too much too soon, and how soon is fair enough to warn them (even though they may still think they can change my mind)?

Of course, online my real name is connected to me talking about my experiences, so if they so desired, they could find out a lot about me before even asking me out or once they ask me out, etc.  I don’t care if they find out that way – that’s their choice to look me up online and read my content.  How they react to it is not my responsibility, nor is it my problem.

Sometimes I think  it’s better to find out who won’t be a waste of time from either perspective, so far as dating goes.  For me, it’s easier to be up front and practical.  I wouldn’t be (and haven’t been) happy when a boyfriend “forgot” to tell me some major things that impact their daily life and also interpersonal interactions, when they had an opportune time to do so, especially when I’d been up front about my own life so they could decide whether they were still interested in dating me or not with a fair playing ground.  It felt instead like they omitted things to get me into a relationship and then suddenly “remembered” to tell me things but not letting me decide from the get-go.  Things which actually ended up causing problems due to their behavior.  I don’t want to be like that.

I mean…DID and a history of trauma are going to impact relationships, romantic or otherwise, so to me I prefer to just lay it on the line rather than waste time only to to be consumed with worry about disclosure and when to do so and how much while dating.  DID and the trauma are big parts of my reality and life.  They impact everything to a certain extent – especially interpersonal relationships, or relationships involving trust, vulnerability, and the potential of being touched.  To pretend otherwise and to pretend I can date with those things having no bearing on the situation is ridiculous to me.  Especially with the norms in society: a kiss by a certain date, sex after a certain amount of dates.  That doesn’t apply for me and I feel it’s better to let them know that.

If a man can’t handle the fact that I may not ever want to sleep with him at all, or even so much as hold hands or kiss, then let’s just get that out of the way.  And while the person may change their mind about physical contact eventually and on their own time if at all, let’s not expect the person to change their stance and continue to see each other based on that “maybe”.

In therapy, learning how to live, behave, as well as relate to and interact with people as a more “whole”, “cohesive” person is a challenge.  Like adjusting to new perspectives and thought patterns and how to react or behave.  It almost feels like fine-tuning how to be more of a “real person” to me.

I’m starting to feel like I missed out on age-related relationship or romantic milestones, and now in my adult life post-fusing the three main fronters, I’m starting to feel like I’m currently missing out by not allowing myself human connection, but at the same time feeling like it’s too late to start learning how to allow that, and that it would go nowhere because of the psychological baggage.

In a way, I almost feel betrayed by these new thoughts and feelings, especially since I worked so hard for so many years on keeping people at a distance, eschewing male interest, and preparing to spend the rest of my life alone.  Then, suddenly, mergings!  Fusions!  Integration!  Lowered dissociative barriers!  More emotional maturity and ability to self-reflect!  More understanding of what I actually want and need versus what trauma taught me!

And what I’m left with is a confusing soup that feels incredibly overwhelming, to the point where it’s easier to shut it all down and go, “Nope.  Stick to the original plan, because this is all too much to (re)learn at this point, and it wouldn’t be fair to subject some man to this, even if I’m well into the recovery journey already.”

It’s important for me to notice the feelings I have while thinking about this topic and writing it out:

  • “Get over yourself, this isn’t a big deal/important and not many guys like you anyway.”
  • “Nobody will believe men want to date (or more) someone like me.”
  • “I don’t deserve a relationship and everybody else thinks so, too.”
  • “I’m getting what I always wanted by being left alone/emotionally shut down/ not allowing men to get close, so get over it and accept the consequences of keeping men away.  It’s my own doing, so get over it, self.”

The amount of second-guessing that goes into reactions is astounding.  “Is this man expressing interest in me, or just being awkwardly friendly?”  “Is this man asking me out indirectly, and if I say I don’t want to date, will they then tell me how full of myself and presumptuous I am and that they were just being friendly, even if what they were doing was indeed asking me out but they feel embarrassed by the rejection?”  “Is this man making me uncomfortable in a legitimate way or is this just my generic fear of men acting up?  Am I over-reacting?” “This man makes me uncomfortable and fails to respect my boundaries.  Would it be over-reacting to ask them to stop?  And again?  Would it be a horrible thing to do to block them from any contact, because maybe they’re not so bad and it’s just me and I need to get over it?”

A lot of people think that I hate all men because of my experiences.  In general, I am more wary and fearful of men, though there are some men I hate, yes.  I don’t know how to trust men or let my guard down around them, even if it comes across as humor and being witty and maybe a tad bit aggressive/assertive – emotional distance.  I also never want to be “accused” of flirting with a man simply for smiling or being nice or engaging in conversation, so I try to treat everyone the same so no one can think I’m looking for male attention by misreading being pleasant as wanting male advances.

This feels like a “silly” topic to struggle with as I approach my thirties, but this is a profound shift into “normal life problems” for me.  But it doesn’t feel “normal” for me to be thinking about these things…it feels like people must think I’m horrible or disgusting for even thinking of things like dating, etc.  Even though they probably couldn’t care less one way or the other in reality.  It’s just me projecting how I feel about myself onto how I think others must feel about me if they know me and my past.

Just…how to approach these normal life problems as someone with a history of trauma and DID.  And later than teenage years or in my twenties.  I missed those experiences, or only had partial awareness of  some experiences.  I can’t relate when I overhear teenagers talk about crushes, boys, dating.  I see friends moving in with significant others, getting engaged and married, having kids, etc.  And here I am at 29, trying to learn what to do with these new thoughts and feelings and wants I’ve never really had to deal with or think about before, because they’d never been forefront in my life, and were mostly walled-off with different alters.  And which are so small compared to things like marriage, etc., but which are a big deal to me.  And I feel profound grief even though I’m so very genuinely happy for my friends who are going through these enormous life events.  It’s really difficult to not wonder what would have been different, or wonder if that could have been you.  It’s hard to swallow the fact that you’ll never know, and that you can’t reclaim the years stolen or what you might have missed out on.

What I do know is that my life currently feels stagnant, walled-in, and suffocating.  And I’m watching other peoples’ lives go on, but I feel like I’ve been frozen in place or am in the world’s slowest quicksand.  I do know that I feel like I’m missing out on things.  I do know this is new to me for obvious reasons.  I do know it’s a complex thing for me to recognize, acknowledge, and struggle with.  Even admitting I might someday want to date or be okay with a man so much as holding my hand is a big deal, and feels embarrassing and shameful and wrong.  And I do feel like my time is running out to deal with this and to decide things that could impact my future.  I never envisioned or planned for a future, and I never expected any fusions/merging of alters, and I never expected walled-off stuff to suddenly threaten to veer me off-course from my straight line to becoming a shut-in hermit.  Is there time to reverse course, if I even decide I want to?

These are strange times for my brain.

(Please note that questions posed here are me thinking out loud and do not require an answer or advice.)