Heal thyself…

28 Aug
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The false diary from 'Gone Girl'

I’m a firm believer in talking therapies.

When I was younger I used to bottle everything up. My fears, anxieties, hopes. I let each crushing disappointment eat me up slowly, thinking I’d be able to deal with it. It wasn’t until my below-par A-level results that I started opening up. I’d failed to achieve the expected results by a mile and suddenly the entire future looked very bleak indeed. I ran off with a friend for a couple of days to a quiet house in a neighbouring town, where I was able to open up without fear of judgement. Gradually I found myself talking more, and when I wasn’t talking I started writing stuff down in my occasional journal.

More recently I’ve been seeing a therapist and talking through the events of my life. It feels a little like a Woody Allen film, only without the glorious loft living or hefty bills. While I’ve been confiding in friends and the occasional anonymous internet forum for years, this has been a real weight lifted. I’ve been able to explore new areas, and pour out with a frankness that at times takes me by surprise. The questions my therapist asks have prompted new juxtapositions in thought processes which in turn shed new light on my perception of the world, and why certain things might have happened.

We’re covering a lot (and the sessions have reached right back into childhood), but at its core, the therapy is helping me to deal with a period of abuse. While the abuse is a long time in the past, the impact continues to be felt, and I am gradually coming to terms with the idea that I am not just a victim, but a survivor. And that wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the help provided by various organisations, the open ears, the general guidance.

I have also come to understand better why so many have come out decades after their abuse in the likes of the Operation Yewtree investigations. No matter how much you share privately, or with experts, as you come to terms with what happened there’s an overwhelming sense of injustice that your abuser may never acknowledge their acts let alone be admonished for them.  The guilt one feels as a victim is epic in scale and scope – and one feels guilt ultimately because abuse thrives on oppression and blame.

I still carry some residual confusion and guilt over a sexualised incident from my primary school days, which involved a number of pupils. I remember being brought in to talk to the headmaster, but not the outcome – only the gut-wrenching feeling that I’d been made to do something which was wrong, without understanding why. I’ve still to explore that incident in therapy,  but the same feelings surround some of the abuse I suffered as an adult, and now I’ve reached a point that I can comprehend that guilt  its time for me to revisit the earlier incident.

There will be family and friends reading who may be shocked by this, and there will be others who will dispute my narrative. But I refuse to be shamed into keeping the abuse completely concealed. I’ve suffered from depression and breakdowns in the past, and have learned that keeping up appearances only magnifies the self-loathing, shame and stress. 

If there’s any purpose to this post, beyond a public outing of my own private anguish, its to point out that abuse can happen to anyone irrespective of age, gender, social class or intelligence, and that the perpetrators can be just as diverse. There is help out there. Talk to friends and family, reach out to a GP. Internet forums can be useful ways to start your process. Women and children are particularly well served, but you may notice there is a tendency for advice to be given using a male abuser-female victim scenario – ignoring potentials of role reversal, or same-sex abusive situations. The psychological impact may take years (if ever) to diminish, but nobody has to suffer in silence.

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