I put people in awkward and uncomfortable situations without really paying attention to what I am doing. I desperately reach out for any sign of comfort, and then cringe when the consequences hit me in the face.
I put my therapist in a really shitty position: I asked for something I knew he could never (and would never) grant me… I didn’t realize it at the time, because I just needed to talk about what was going on in my head. Then he voiced his discomfort with my unspoken request… I felt like such an ass. It wasn’t really what I was looking for (though maybe deep down I was hoping I’d get permission)… I back-tracked and told him that I had really just needed to talk about the contents of my head.
Before that, we talked about safety and feeling safe when all situations were unsafe. Sometimes you pick the least of all the evils. That may be where my penchant for picking the less destructive method to my downfall comes from. They are all bad choices, I just end up picking the one that is closer to better choices on the sliding scale. It’s probably also where all my screwed-up coping strategies come from. It’s where I learned to ingratiate myself to those in power (perceived or real). It’s where I learned to have no opinion and no self because that self needs to be whatever is needed to keep safe in the company of others.
People used to get hung up on the thought of me being upset about something when I said they should pick “whatever [they] want” to do at the time. In all honesty, I had no opinion. Opinions and desires were dangerous. Saying the wrong thing could get you in a heap of trouble. I learned long ago that I needed to defer to the present company. I learned that there is no such thing as speaking up for yourself, only talking back. There is no defending anyone, only attacking another. There is no room for your own opinion, especially if it differs from the present company, because that is seen as an aggressive and spiteful act meant to demean present company… So I learned to shut up. I learned to apologize like there is no tomorrow (even if I did nothing wrong). I learned that you agreed with whomever was closest (and loudest), or you too became the enemy. I learned it’s always boys against girls, even when it’s not. I learned that boys are allowed to do anything and carry no responsibility; while girls can do nothing and carry all the responsibility. I learned that double-standards are the norm, and very accepted. I learned you can never do anything right, even if everything is done to the last known specs, because the specs always change so the holes fit the current situation. I learned that perfection is the ultimate goal, but it is never reached. No one else ever has the chance to be perfect, and you don’t hold them to that, but you must ALWAYS strive for perfect, and catch hell if you don’t measure up. I learned that asking for help meant getting in more trouble. I learned that being quiet was a fault, but so was talking. I learned that when you pretend everything’s fine (because you must, or you are committing immeasurable acts of betrayal), no one believes you when you finally tell them everything is not. Tears will only get you in more trouble (any outward sign of emotion will do that). Anger means violence. Rage can mean death (or the fear/threat of it). The biggest and loudest can do as he wishes, even if it destroys everyone and everything else along the way. Quiet rebellion and dissociation will only protect you for so long, then even that becomes a trigger, and associating with it will get you in trouble. I learned people can’t be trusted, and you can only ultimately rely on yourself (everyone else will fail or betray you). I learned I can dissociate quite well by getting lost in a book. I learned that you are never allowed to love anything too much, because it will be seen as competition (that never really stuck well though). I learned that I could float away in my head when things became too difficult to bear. I learned the art of being invisible. I learned I can never stop anything bad from happening (I’m just not worth it). I learned that needs and requests were bothersome (even the basic ones). I learned that you have to smile for everyone, but stay out of the limelight. You can be smart, but don’t show off and don’t let it go to your head. The only time the limelight and intelligence worked to your favor was for bragging purposes of those in power, but then they really had to ham it up in public to make everyone else feel like shit… I learned that anything and everything done to help cope was only “for attention”. I learned that even hidden coping was considered attention-seeking as soon as anyone found out. I learned you can never truly feel sad or hurt because it reflected poorly on those in power. And I learned that you could never cry because Skeletor would kill you. I learned that bad people and monsters get in despite the best security systems, and I learned that nothing can protect you from them. Nothing. The people who you call for protection will always come to side with those from whom you need protecting… or they will tell you to pray about it after you tell them the events of the prior week that nearly caused a death… and you grow bitter and resentful and hopeless…
How do you unlearn all of that? How do you finally give up the survival skills that you so desperately needed to make it this far (even if they now serve to suffocate you)? How do you walk away from the nightmares and the flashbacks when triggers lay just around every corner. And how do you reconcile the realization that those you sought refuge with were really just as messed up as those you needed protection from? How do you come to terms with the cycle of trauma and violence that started generations before you were born? How do you heal from that? How do you help others heal from it? How do you ensure that you will break the cycle (because now you are just as messed up as those that came before you)?