Letter about traumas and being met with understanding

14th of March 2020

Dear whoever is out there reading.

Once again I am struck by the feeling of not having anything to share. I know something will pour out on the page, but I am not sure what. It’s not that I don’t think about it during the week. I think about it a lot. But by the time Friday (and in some cases, like this one, Saturday or Sunday) rolls around I am blank. I have not excuse for not writing yesterday. I just forgot or kept thinking I would do it later. I’m trying out bullet journaling. And I somehow forgets to put it on my to do list for the day and I think that is making it difficult for me to remember.
I don’t have a super creative and artful bullet journal. I am more of an only what is most necessary and wow my handwriting is awful person. I am giving it two months. Maybe three if the two first isn’t a total failure. Then I’ll decide for good if I want to keep going. I really liked all the things I saw online about it, but all the things I saw for a long time was just so artistic and creative and every page looked like a piece of art. And I thought it wasn’t for me. But when I finally read about it I realised it wasn’t about art and creativity at all, and that made me want to give it a go. So far I’m doing all right, but it’s still early. Maybe I’ll write a real update on how I am doing by the end of April.

Along with writing on this blog, reading a book a week and looking for communities I feel like I am doing a lot. I also got myself to two days a week at work and feel really proud of that. It might be over soon. I don’t know how long I can stay there, but I am looking into getting an actual job there, where they pay me a salary and I am employed and stuff like that. I would love that. But hope is still tiny and some of the joy the possibility died down a lot when my mom decided to meddle a little. Not something I feel like I can explain.
She just took part of the narrative around this and around my feelings about this away from me in a context when I had already told her I wasn’t comfortable talking about it. I so need better boundaries with her and my dad. But I am so bad at boundaries (my own mostly). By the time I understand that the boundary was crossed I am usually home again and calling to tell them off is just so much work. I am looking into finding books I can read about boundaries to maybe help me figure out how t o get better at setting them. I’ve finally reach a place where I mostly understand I am allowed to have and set boundaries. The next step of how to do it and how to overcome fear of backlash and how to handle backlash is still a little too far away. But that is also something I am working on. The list keeps growing and my energy and abilities doesn’t. Plus the fact that all though I am fighting my depression (by doing all these things) it’s not magically cured with books and writing and my mental health in general isn’t great. It’s still kind of bad. I think I stopped checking in with it. The status kept being the same. But I am doing the work. Or the work I think I need to do.

I am also working a lot on trauma related to mental health treatments, my parents and those boundaries. The trauma of rape and sexual abuse is not really on the table right now. I don’t have the space to work on it. It also took me a long time to admit, but the trauma of the other stuff, the none-sexual stuff, is for me personally more severe and more stigmatised. I feel like I am allowed to name the rapes as trauma. But my bad experiences with psychologists and psychiatrists are somehow not allowed to be traumas. My undiagnosed autism, my parents not understanding me, the world not understanding me, the demands that I need to be something I am not and that I need to have other reactions and feelings than I do, the constant invalidation and lack of respect or consideration for my experiences and feelings, bordering on gaslighting. Those things are not as clear cut, they are not allowed to be traumas, I am not allowed to have unresolved issues with this. Maybe because there isn’t a clear cut villain.
My parents did the best they could, they were in an impossible situation with my dad’s health problems, my mom trying to hold everything together. Of cause it was easier to tell me to stop being difficult (especially because I understood why they needed me to behave differently and therefore from their perspective it worked to tell me that), than to figure out why I was being difficult.
Some of the psychologists who worked on helping me might have been genuinely nice people who wanted to help make my life better and easier. But getting the wrong diagnosis several times, lack of consent and information, no focus in building trust and my long history of bad experiences made every new encounter with any kind of therapist a new bad experience. A long with a few bad apples who did and said actually harmful things to me. I also might be smart but I am not impervious to confirmation bias. And I spend almost twenty years talking to more different psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and other therapists than I can count. That is a very big part of my life spend talking to people I didn’t what to talk to, who made me feel worse, that I’ll never get back.

It’s hard to explain exactly how or why these things are traumas. It’s so much easier to point to the sexual abuse and name that the bad thing that happened to me. But I also know it’s not the whole story. I know there are things that feel so much more shameful, so much more scary, things that to me was much more violating than the ways he used my body.

So at the moment I am also spending a lot of time and energy on looking at that. Naming my feelings and what happened and figuring out why it those things hit me so hard. I don’t need a villain to allow my feelings space to exist. I don’t need to name someone else evil to allow myself to acknowledge that my needs were fair and reasonable and that they were not being met. I can allow myself to be angry at my parents and the psychologists and still remember that they did the best they could and that my parents were having very real and very big problems that took precedence. No one knew I was autistic and that if they had known they might have acted differently and I might have gotten actual help and support.

I’ve also been operating with intention vs impact. And am allowing myself to look away from intentions and look more at impact. I’ve been living my whole life feeling like other people intentions were so important, that almost any impact could be excused. But allowing myself to look at impact and not get caught up in intentions allows me to better understand why things hurt, it allows me to acknowledge my own feelings and gives me permission to have boundaries. I don’t have to set myself and my boundaries aside just because someone else have good intentions.

And writing these things brings me back to how I responded to the sexual abuse. I actually let him excuse his abuse with good intentions. He actually told me he hoped sex would help me and that he wasn’t trying to hurt me. And when I thought intentions matters more than impact, I had no real right to be uncomfortable with what he did or be mad at him for it.
I also felt safe with him. I felt protected by him. Not from him, but from something else. From myself perhaps. Or maybe from all the other traumas I my life. Sometimes I think about how messed up a person’s life has to be for them to experience an abusive person who rapes them as the safest place they have ever known. And even now it’s easier to name him the villain, it safer to name his actions trauma, than to name all the rest that hurts inside me as trauma. I’m not saying what he did is ok. I am not saying what he did isn’t serious and bad. I’m just saying with him I know I am allowed to be in pain and not ok with what happened. And I don’t have that with the rest.

And that is what I am working on. Not because I want to name everything a trauma. But because I want the shame and fear and pain to have an outlet. So I will one day be rid of it. And to get that I need to look at it and name it and create space to feel and understand it. That way I think maybe one day I’ll no longer have shame and fear and pain about it. I’ll always have been shaped by it, but I won’t always be hurting and it won’t always mess up my present and my future. I’ll be able to leave what happened in the past. The open wounds will heal and the scars will be beautiful reminders to be kind to others and meet them with understanding and care and curiosity instead of fear and judgement. And they’ll remind me to be aware of both intentions and impacts. Both in others and in my own actions.

In doing this work I recently had an amazing conversation with a friend who listened and acknowledged and told me my feelings made sense. Just that. What I feel makes sense. She would feel the same if she had my experiences. I was so afraid of sounding mad, proper insane, delusional. And here she was. Just taking in what I said and telling me that I wasn’t delusional. I was having a very real and reasonable reaction to something that I couldn’t understand and was trying to protect myself from something that felt dangerous. She didn’t try to fix me or tell me I was wrong. She asked questions in order to try and understand me and then she imagined what I was going through and told me I made sense. Not logical sense, not “what you are telling me is the objective truth” sense. But sense in the way that my reactions and feelings were perfectly clear and reasonable in the context I was in and with the information I had.
Never underestimate the power of doing what she did. It was like this shameful secret of my reactions and feelings no longer had to be shameful. I didn’t have to hide them. She didn’t think less of me and she didn’t believe I was insane because of what I told her. And what a gift that is to give me. I am not done working on the thing I talked to her about. But I am in a much better place to do it. There is less shame, less worry, less fear. And now she knows me better and can understand me better. And that opens up a lot in the communication between us. A new trust has been build. I know I can return to her and feel safe that she will try to understand me and see my perspective, before she introduces me to a new perspective on what I work on. And that, I think, is the key. To trust and understanding and growth.

I am grateful to have such a friend. I am grateful that people like her exist. And I am inspired to keep trying to meet people like that. It might seem like a high standard to set, but a worthy one.

Thank you for your time.