A Butterfly flaps its wings …
As I attempt to come to terms with the issues I discussed in my previous post (If you haven’t read that post, I urge you to do that first to understand the issues surrounding this post), I start to realize how such a small thing (small in the sense the actual events were only hours long if you add them all together) can cause so many issues down the line.
Every part of my life has been negatively effected by this. The issues that caused everything from my dropping out of high school to my early discharge from the Army can be traced back to the damage done by this predator. And while every step along the way has lead me to where I am now, some of those steps came close to bringing me to a completely different, and much less happy present. Along with that having to work twice as hard to deal with everyday issues isn’t pleasant, and if I could have avoided that I would have liked to.
I don’t want to come off as a whiner here, I understand we all have our struggles and I would not want to downplay any struggle that anyone else has had. I do want to describe my struggle as it specifically relates to abuse, because I am hoping that through sharing the struggles we can seek to both prevent future abuse, and see abusers pay for the harm that they caused.
With the benefit of hindsight, I see these struggles I had that were due to the abuse. I struggle with anger, so much anger, and almost all of it misplaced. I struggle to have normal romantic relationships (luckily I found an awesome wife and this struggle is less now). I struggle being in any situation where I do not have control, or at least an option for me to take action. And of course, sometimes crippling, guilt.
Through my life, I have found that I have an extremely short fuse. I will often go from seemingly calm to completely enraged. I have done my best to ensure that this rage is not physical, and for the most part I have succeeded, but it is only because I have to restrain myself every second. But I don’t restrain my words, I don’t restrain my volume. Screaming at my kids, or raising my voice at my wife, these things happen, infrequently now, but they still happen. The second the emotion leaves me I feel ashamed, and embarrassed.
When I yell at someone who I have no relationship with, like someone on the phone from a company who has pissed me off, I feel less ashamed, but still embarrassed. Not because of what I said to the person, but because the people I do care about (coworkers, etc.) have heard me be like that, and they notice. More than a handful of times I have been called an ass because of how I handle people on the phone. I try to play it off in front of people because I just don’t want to admit that in that moment, I had no control over myself. I was literally absent of logic, and just fueled by emotion.
This anger was a big part of me for many years. However, when I actually started to work at healing from the abuse, I realized that the anger started to leave. I notice myself not flying off as much, and not even noticing things that previously would have set me off. It is still a mystery to me why the anger manifested, but my theory right now is that I needed to assert my dominance on everyone to ensure that no one could hurt me.
There are plenty of people who have issues with being touched, and in most cases (I hope) that doesn’t mean that they were abused. However, my aversion to touch is absolutely because of it. This ends up being subconscious, so I am at least spared the constant reminder anytime someone touches me. And after years of practice, I am able to, hopefully, not be noticeable when my skin is crawling from someone patting me on the back, or shaking my hand, or even worse, putting an arm around me.
Not surprisingly, I have, since the abuse, had abnormal feelings about sex, and anything that goes along with it. I don’t want to share details about sexual exploits or habits. What I do want to say is that whey you have an internal struggle between the expected excitement and fun of sex and the chase, and the thoughts about shame and guilt, you start to find ways to make the shame and guilt go away, and when you can’t physical acts become very confusing.
One very obvious issue I have is massages. To most people, a massage is a great thing that can either reduce stress or even “get things started”. To me I am reminded of my abuse every time. Every time I get one all I can think about is my abuse, and how it feels the same, or how it feels different, or how certain words are used. Giving massages has the same problem. Thinking if this is what it was like for him, trying not to do the same things, say the same things. Trying to not think about it at all, but failing miserably.
And the same time, how do you tell your wife that she can’t have massages from you for the rest of her life? That is not fair to her, even though it makes me uncomfortable, not giving massages means that I am again surrendering power to that man. I am allowing him to have control over me as an adult, and I am allowing him to take something else from me. So I don’t get massages, I don’t ask for them, but I will still give them.
Being out of control for even short periods of time during abuse can cripple anyone. Some people succumb to the loss of control by simply allowing their abuser to control them completely. I went the other direction. It isn’t that I need to be in control all the time, I mean I don’t have to drive when I am in a car, I don’t need to be in charge of meetings, and I don’t mind just going with the flow of the group. What I do have a problem with is inaction. Just doing nothing about a problem, or doing nothing about an opportunity is excruciating for me.
There are many times in someone’s life where an issue arises and there is nothing that the person can do to fix it. During these times for me, I get increasingly self destructive. I would rather do the wrong thing than do nothing at all. Deep down I think it is my hope that doing something, even something that is counterproductive, will change the status quo by a big enough degree that the problem I am facing will start to get fixed.
I am not exactly sure why this is my reaction, but I know that when I do get to take action to change my situation I scratch that itch in my brain and I feel better.
And it is this compulsion to do something even when nothing can be done that has caused some of the most painful mistakes I have made in my life. When I was in the Army, I was put in a position where I couldn’t move forward with my training, but I also couldn’t be done with the Army. So I had nothing I could do to change my situation, and my situation would not change on it’s own. I was stuck. So I started making the wrong decisions. Those decisions hurt me, hurt others, and ended up costing me my career in the Army.
The biggest problem here was that it worked. I couldn’t get change doing the right thing, so doing the wrong thing at least changed my situation. I might not have been in the Army anymore, but I at least got to move on with my life. And while I am not sure what else could have been done in the situation, had I done nothing, maybe I would still be in the Army, and I would be 6 years away from retirement. Instead, I got discharged (luckily honorably) and I didn’t really get a chance to serve my country like I wanted to.
And this compulsion to do something is also the main driving factor for me to write these thoughts and experiences down. I can’t do anything about the abuse now. I can’t work with the police to see my abuser brought to justice. I can’t undo the abuse and act like it never happened. So I need to do something constructive instead of destructive.
Maybe by doing something here I can feel like I am changing the status quo, while not making the same mistakes I made before, and be self destructive. Maybe I can help other victims not get in my position. Maybe I can help victims in my position not feel like they are alone in the world. Maybe I can even change how the system works. Maybe one single reader reads this, and all my other posts, and decides to do something to help victims, and that person helps one other person through a tough time. If any one of these things happen, then it would have been worth it all, and I would get to scratch that brain itch.