Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Can anyone else understand a survivor?
There are days I feel I'm so on course, healing, strong, close to healthy. And then, there are days like today when I feel so horribly, horribly broken. I don't know where to begin as I sit here just letting my fingers fly over the keys. It started with the incident at choir last night (prior post) and I thought I did so awesome in figuring things out. And then I had a conversation with my BFF and now I'm left feeling confused and crazy. And I wonder....among many other things....can anyone else understand an abuse survivor? Can anyone not living with PTSD understand how it warps and ties experiences together whether they seem relevant to an outsider? Can someone with no reference point of abuse begin to comprehend what comes along with the aftermath? The intense shame and self doubt that permeate areas of our lives? Or....am I using that as an excuse because I don't want to hear the things she's saying to me?
My BFF, Jennie, has been my friend for 27 years now. I am a year older than she and it was always sortof a big sis/lil sis type of dynamic. She came to me, the wise older sister. She talked, I listened. She asked, I advised. She cried, I comforted. I never talked about me. When we met I was 13 years old and just at the tail end of the sexual abuse, still mired in physical and emotional abuse from my father, abusive neglect from my mother and feeling entirely confused, wrong, ashamed, unsure. As we've grown up, we've had some parallels and even go to the same therapist. She was never abused but we've shared some of the same insecurity issues, codependency issues. We laugh about our polar opposite upbringings and yet, still some similar problems. Jennie has made great strides in the past couple years and she's pretty healthy right now. There was a time when our relationship only existed in a codependent form. I needed her to need me. It gave me an outlet to sink my energy so that I didn't have to deal with my own emotions.....I was too busy getting caught up in hers. Now all that has changed and I'm happy but I find myself feeling anxiety, unfamiliar, *gulp* vulnerable.
In my past I've twisted vulnerability around to try to make it work for me. I didn't bother to evaluate if a person was worthy of my opening up to them. I did it, with men, to portray myself in a certain way...the victim, the damsel in distress...feel sorry for me, love me, save me. And inevitably it ended badly which confirmed my suspicions about opening up to people. It only serves to hurt me. So I find myself in this unique situation with Jennie where there is reward in the risk of opening up (after 27 years!). I can prove that vulnerability can be safe. I can deepen our friendship, make it more reciprocal. Yet I find myself on edge when I talk to her....afraid to show my "weakness", afraid to no longer be the "older, wiser", afraid to drop the facade of having it all together, being able to handle things myself. I find myself irritated with some of the things she says to me. Sometimes b/c I feel like she doesn't get it and other times because I clearly see she DOES get it! I don't always take advice well, especially if I've not asked for it. Yet, there are two people I trust to give me advice and it never seems to ruffle me....one is my therapist and the other is a (mostly) online friend, who also happens to be a survivor. (I'm lookin' at you, Enola!)
And then I begin to question.....is Jennie just not the right person for me to talk to? And I hate that thought b/c she is my BFF and she knows me so well and I want her to be that person. I love her to death, I trust her implicitly. Do I now criticize the advice she's given me b/c it made me angry and overstepped a line for me? Do I need to school her on PTSD? Am I being way too hyper about it? Am I just getting used to how this works? Or does she have an intrinsic inability to comprehend the way things filter in a survivors brain? Or am I hiding behind that?
Somehow all of these thoughts swirled in my head for an hour as I drove to pick up Bianca at camp and I was throwing into the mix that I'm a bad friend, too sensitive, haven't made any progress, stupid, crazy, disorganized, can't do anything right, etc etc etc etc. My mind would not stay focused on any one thing that made any sense. It was simply a barrage of negative self talk that would not cease.