Obsessing about all the ways I’ve come out as an incest survivor, rather than sleeping, at 5:20 am

It’s 5:20 am and I can’t sleep.
I’m not one of those poor people who actually gets up at 5 am for work or the insane ones that get up at 5 am to do yoga or something.

My bedroom is hot, the comforter is too warm, my stomach is upset and I’m running over in my head all the people I’ve come out to in the last week or so. I’m having a cumulative sense of shame and fear about it, analyzing their reactions at the time and since, feeling afraid that my credibility has been damaged.

I really should get out more if I care so much what a few people think, some of whom I don’t even like. There’s nothing I can do about how others perceive me – I can only be a good, honest and reliable person and let the rest fall as it may. It’s hard to go out and be sociable when you feel crappy.

However, it’s important to me to be taken seriously. Having a history of being the scapegoat of my family has reinforced the necessity of making sure people don’t slot me into that role. I will not be blamed for having the normal effects of being assaulted. I feel like that has happened too much already.

At 5am what is it I’m worried about? I’m feeling less able to be honest on this blog, for fear someone I know will read. I have two non-cyber friends who have this URL, plus I my wife has occasionally read it when it’s left up on the screen. Since I’ve complained about her a bit, that’s kind of dodgy, but I let myself out of that one since she knows it’s anonymous and she’s really not that interested in my abuse stuff, so is unlikely to read much.

I think she’s worried I’ll fall apart. I did once, from her perspective, when we were living together in a shared house with some other people. We’d invited a new roommate to move in, someone I considered a friend. I knew she’d had problems controlling her anger and had been fired for yelling at colleagues on the job. I knew she had a violent fantasy life. I knew she had impulsivity around money and food. But I’d known her for years, she was a survivor, and I thought she’d be an ally in my home of 12 years. What was I thinking?

She moved in and left the living room filled with boxes and furniture for several weeks. She was bossy and cut me down. She started yelling at me and intimidating me when other people weren’t around. She was like living with my father again. I was terrified, I was triggered and because of that I couldn’t seem to access my amazon assertiveness or my brain to think of a way out of this.

For complicated reasons, one of my other housemates wanted me and my wife gone from the house, so I think she was secretly delighted I was so miserable. She would not consider kicking this woman out. I complained, again much more ineffectively than usual, at house meetings, but was not supported, perhaps because people interpreted my desperation and overreaction (I was triggered) as dishonesty or being high maintenance. My wife came home one day while this woman was in full swing standing over me and yelling at me, and took charge of making her stop. After that she believed me (why did she need to be shown?) but being my partner, was expected to be on my side anyway so didn’t have much influence.

It was right during the last time my father was seriously ill, about five years ago, and I was already at my wits end about that. It’s like all ability to be assertive, to stand up to this woman had been sucked out of me by that and I ended up living in fear, walking on eggshells. My housemates choosing this clearly belligerent and abusive woman over me knocked me flat with betrayal and shame.

I was ready to give in. I made a ‘date’ with the housemate who wanted me gone, to tell her we were moving out. She beat me to it, which surprised me a lot, by telling me first she was leaving. The balance of power in the house shifted with this, making it possible to force this woman out. The woman flatly refused to leave. Finally, my wife came to my defense, although she resented it deeply. Since the household was run as part of a coop, she told the woman that she and I would not be endorsing her for membership, which meant that she would be publicly embarrassed at the membership meeting by being an unwanted person who wouldn’t leave.

The woman left a couple of weeks later and during that time I went and stayed at the apartment of a friend of mine, another survivor. Because of our dog, and perhaps because she was mad at me, my wife stayed at home.

We were down two housemates and had worn out a third with all the fighting. It was really hard to find new ones, especially since we couldn’t honestly tell the new housemate that things were good at the house. We limped along for another year or so and then got our own place, which was much better.

With my father sick again (could he please DIE already and get it over with!) I’m back into feeling vulnerable and off-centre. I’m sure it scares her a bit too, waiting to see what will happen to me, needing me to hold it together since I earn a lot more than she does and we have a mortgage. I have held it together under a lot worse conditions, but I don’t know that I’m willing to pay that price again.

All I want is to be understood, to be validated by the fact that someone else sees me and doesn’t think I’m hopelessly damaged and embarrassing. I’m ashamed of things I know logically I shouldn’t be ashamed of.

When I told my chiropractor I had PTSD it went down like this:

Her: Something about not being in my body.
Me: Well I do tend toward dissociating a bit. I have PTSD and it’s part of it.
Her: (Concerned, awkward look) Do you take medication for that?
Me: {in my head: That’s a weird question. Surely other patients have had PTSD before, from car accidents or whatever. Is she trying to ask if I’m on psychiatric meds? Does that mean she thinks I’m really nuts? or does she just not know what PTSD is?} aloud: “No, I’ve never needed them.” [changes subject]

Here’s how the coming out at the work meeting went down as far as I can remember:

Me: [to guy with PTSD who runs a self-help CBT group for anxiety disorders] Do you know of any CBT programs specifically for PTSD?
Him: Well, there’s our website, have you seen it?
Me: Yes. I found it a bit high level, PTSD is a bit different from other anxiety disorders.
Him: Yes, I have PTSD, I know what you mean.
Me: Me too.
Stuff I don’t remember, with him saying his PTSD was from childhood abuse and me saying yeah, me too. Here’s where I imagine the ears perking up around the room with the people who are still drifting out.
Him: Are you looking for yourself or someone else?
Me: [Awkward] Well, I’m really well, but I’m getting to the point where I’d like to find some ways to help others and give back. [nobody think I’m defective please here!]
Him: Mentioning something about how there is some stuff with PTSD and CBT and I could do a literature search.
Another woman: Has anxiety too, involves self in conversation.

Now around the table I know that two manage a mental illness (depression I think, including the woman with the anxiety) and one has a daughter with anxiety. All have disclosed these facts during meetings, so you’d think this would be a normal, basic conversation to have. The meetings are somewhat adversarial (non-profits competing for funding) so maybe it’s just that I think at least one of them would try and find a way to use it to discredit me if she could.

Here’s another one:
Me: [talking to friend with intense history of mental illness] I’ve been blogging about the stuff with my dad dying.
Her: [not knowing much about blogs, that’s interesting, you should give me the url and I’ll check it out]
Me: (actually why did I say that, I don’t want to give her the URL) It’s helpful and supportive and I really like the writing I’m doing, like real essays and stories and song and poetry. [Changing topic]
Later as we’re saying goodbye:
Her: About your blog, you could send me the url and I could look at a poem or something. I’m not a therapist but I could look at it as your friend. [Why did she say that “I’m not a therapist”? I’m the one that was a big part of nursing her through a serious breakdown where she had to be hospitalized and she’s warning me against being overly self-disclosing or needy? ]( I realize as I write this that she was probably just disconcerted by me shifting the role between us, since I’m usually the normal okay one.)
Me: That’s not what I’m looking for, I just want to be honest about my life.

Maybe I’m afraid I’ll fall apart again. Listing up all those reasons why my dad should have died by now from cancer, or flesh eating disease or alcoholism made me think, yes, he really is going to die this time. I know I’ve been saying it, but it sunk in a little more. I’ve got no updated information about his health, and it seems victimy to just be waiting helplessly for him to die, like waiting for an earthquake that is predicted to be ‘the big one’.

Now, the wise part of myself would say – what would she say?
You are a good person and people will either see that or they won’t. There’s nothing you can do about it, so turn it over to the Goddess. You are powerless over other people and what they think. Stay in your body, trust your inner knowing and things will be all right. This is a big time for you, you don’t have to achieve anything but keeping going and nurturing yourself through this and putting one foot in front of the other. Eat well. Take your vitamins. Do your work. Slow down a little on taking over the world. Just do one thing and complete it. Listen to a relaxation recording. This is just the anxiety talking.

0 thoughts on “Obsessing about all the ways I’ve come out as an incest survivor, rather than sleeping, at 5:20 am”

  1. As people first, what a great way to be seen. I look forward to that. And I think that survivors being “out” is necessary and commendable. Though not easy. It takes a lot of courage to be out as a survivor.


  2. SwordDanceWarrior, my new friend,

    My mom always says that I have the unique ability to take someone’s security blanket away from them when they are not ready. I apologize if this next bit that I am about to say is me taking yours away before you’re ready.

    I was very struck by the part of this blog entry where you were talking about your wife and you matter-of-factly said “She’s not real interested in my abuse stuff anyway.” Uh, that’s a big fucking part of who you have become, and how you got there. It has everything to do with the way you view life and love and relationships and sex and all kinds of other shit. If she’s not real interested in your abuse stuff, then she’s not real interested in getting to know the real you, the you that can only be you in an anonymous blog.

    I think maybe you are selling her short, and here’s why. (Forgive me, friend, if I am saying too much. Say the word, and I will shut the fuck up, ok?) Anyway, here’s the thing, you love her, and she loves you. You married each other. For better or worse. Well this is your worse, and she loves you warts and all. She needs to see you, all of you. Let her love you the way you deserve to be loved, all of you. That’s how marriage works. When one of us isn’t okay, we’re not okay.

    You are planning a beautiful sacred dance on the grave of a shithead who raped you repeatedly. It’s a lot, Warrior. It’s a lot. It’s at the very least, if nothing else, deserving of your wife’s full attention and support.

    Coming out to so many people was an act of bravery and courage, which means you are a brave and courageous woman. You have this. Planning this ritual dance is brave and courageous too. You are doing this because you are brave and courageous. Be brave and courageous in your love life now too. You married her because you saw qualities in her that led you to think you could spend your life with her. She deserves no less than all of you.

    Now, I say this having never met either of you, so really what do I know? So take all this with a grain of salt, dear friend. And know that wherever you are, I am behind you. And so are all of us.

    – Butterfly

    1. Hey Butterfly, no offense taken. I like it when people are frank with me. Yes, it does bother me a lot she doesn’t seem to get my abuse related stuff. I don’t feel seen or valued for the most sacred and spiritual parts of who I am, the part of me that is brave and courageous, resourceful and creative. The thing is, most of the time we’ve been together, abuse related expression been a fairly peripheral part of my daily life. I did a big whack of intense healing for about ten years, and then took a break. I’d decided to stop giving him so much energy. It is only with my dad dying that things have come to the surface again. I tend to date people who don’t get it, probably a mirror of mother stuff.

      I don’t know how we’re going to resolve this. I really don’t. It’s possible we will, we’ve done well working through things in the past. She’s not unsupportive, but just not exactly on the team either. She’s more concerned than I am about what people think, so my activism scares her. She actually asked me not to use my current name (I changed my name in my early 20s) when I do the sword dance. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a good and kind person and she loves me, I just don’t think she gets me in this area, or she’s afraid if she encourages me I’ll get really needy and she’ll feel overwhelmed. I don’t know. I do let her see me, I just don’t think she takes much of an interest in the things I think are important about me. Yes, it hurts.

      One thing I know about relationships, is that we fall in love with the people who mirror our families, both good and bad, until we work it out. Iether I work it out with her, or it will show up with my next partner. And I do take my marriage seriously. We have a shot at working it out. Fortunately, I tend to date people who are more like my mom than my dad, at least lately, which is a lot more manageable.

      Anyhow, thanks for your concern and validation. It IS important that my wife gets this part of me, and you’re right, I should fight for it.

  3. Thanks Kate. Yes. I guess this is really one of those times when it seems like nothing is happening but a lot is.
    Whether people appreciate it or not, whether they feel awkward or not, I am able to come out and be counted as a survivor and that’s good. It’s good for me to be real about all the parts of me, and it’s good for our culture to begin to assimilate how many survivors exist (one in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18, after all). It reminds me a bit of the civil progress of gay people. It used to be that lesbian characters in tv or books were either the villains or would go crazy or die by the end of the movie. Kind of like survivors are portrayed now. Gradually gay folks became amusing secondary characters, and then main characters that were portrayed sympathetically and had a shot at a happy ending. I’d like survivors to be thought of that way too, as people first.

  4. Hi SwordDanceWarrior,

    I wanted to say that I was the scapegoat in my family too and so I can really relate to what you shared and how difficult it is to worry about being put in that position again.

    As well I know how strong of a pattern this is and how others pick up on that and tend to fill the space left by your past abuser(s). One employer casually said out of the blue to me during a shift, yes well when looking for someone to blame, look at Kate, Kate is always to blame for everything. And that was after a year of doing the responsible and honest thing at all times when working for him and his company. I had never felt persecuted, per se, but obviously in his mind I was a scapegoat. So I well know the power of an insidious pattern like this.

    I’m sorry that this friend did that to you in the co-op situation you lived in. How truly awful. And again I well know the pattern that can make us survivor adults turn into survivor little victims when an abuser is active in our home. I’m sorry that this happened.

    I do understand what you are saying about wanting yuor wife to get it, without explanation. To be on your side, because she is your ally and no one else comes before you. I’ve never had that. But if I had a partner in the future I would want that kind of ally.

    Telling others has such a potential for such a powerful kickback, even if no one else does anything negative towards you or thinks anything negative about you. Our lives, for so many years, was tied up in lies, silence, and repercussions. Standing up and being counted is not an easy thing. Good for you for doing it anyway.

    I am not completely anonymous. A few message boards that I participate in have links to my blog. I am already dealing with the reality of the complications of combining those. That comment from your friend would have really upset me and I wouldn’t want her reading my stuff, knowing it was me. You have a right to not share your url. We all get to decide.

    I think you are going through a lot. As you mentioned Goddess is changing you and bringing change into your life. It sounds like a lot to deal with all at once. But it also sounds like you are making some huge steps in healing.


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