The absence of intimacy in a post-abuse life

27 Jun
A Ghost of My Former Self. © Robert JE Simpson 2016

A Ghost of My Former Self.
© Robert JE Simpson 2016

People ask me how I am and I say I’m fine, but I’m not. Not really. Comparatively I’m in a better, happier place in my life, but the scars left from an abusive relationship run deep. And it seems hardly a day goes by without something reminding me of the trauma. And I’m angry about that.

You see it ruined my life.  Physically, mentally, permanently. Abuse took away my creativity, my ambition, my career, my confidence. I nearly lost my freedom and my sanity. And so today I sit alone, so distrustful of people that I seriously think I might never have another relationship again.

Today I am a solitary, celibate sort. Three years ago I made the decision to refrain from carnal congress and it remains that way today. I don’t think I’d even know what to do now, it’s been so long. Sex just isn’t important in my life. My last experiences were unpleasant, manipulative and traumatic. I was violated, coerced, abused. And eventually left a mental wreck.

I’ve lost what confidence I had. And while there have been flirtations, I’m incapable of being forward enough to form a physical bond it seems. I run away when the heat builds. I wonder what the catch is this time.

And that’s a shame. If I was one of my friends I’d be worried and sad for me that I had been robbed of the ability to form intimate connections.

And I guess that while I say sex doesn’t matter, I feel that absence. No girlfriend, no fuck buddy, no casual encounters, nothing.

I voice this messed up narrative and it compounds reasons why people wouldn’t want to deal with me. They don’t understand necessarily that I don’t spent time thinking about my abuser (though the simple fact is that she will remain in denial of the truth of her abusive behaviour til the day she dies), but I do spend time thinking about the abuse. I do worry I’ll put my trust in the wrong person again. I worry that I’ll become trapped again. I worry I will be violated once more. I’m sitting here writing with my stomach in knots, twisted with anxiety and frustration at the man I seem to have become – an incomplete person, a tattered shell of a human being. And the more I encounter people and fail to connect the worse those knots become, the more ingrained the damage.

Assembling material for a recent photographic exhibition inadvertently took me back to dark places. Each image unlocked a swathe of memories including those of times before and times after. I realise now I’d included material connected to my processes – ones taken on the day I decided I’d had enough, days I sported physical evidence of the ordeals, places I went to escape. A new anger grew.

An anger at the time wasted. At the opportunities thrown away. A PhD I had to put on hold because of ill-health, ill-health caused by daily abuse. Friends I lost because of a dozen reasons…. A promising business project that ended up miscarried rather than mature. Anger at the happiness I was promised and the torture I received.

As best as I try, my life has changed. I don’t exist in the same mental space any more. I’ve tried running away from and facing reminders and neither particularly helps. Since my therapy reached its end I’ve ended up stewing in my thoughts alone, not able to share much of it with another. Until it comes blurting out. On a date a few months ago some details came out in answer to a relevant question. Chatting about my creative work, and it starts to spill out because I realise it is inextricably linked to my life experiences. Decay and trauma have become recurrent themes across my photography, theatre and film projects.

But it is in my personal/intimate life that I hurt the most. I ended up feeling that sex was something I had to do when called – an obligation. It was linked with physical pain and mental anguish. I was confronted with questions about my sexuality – a push to view myself in a way I did not feel. I was made to feel guilty about past relationships and experiences – persuaded to distrust the genuine nature of those moments. And yet in turn I learned that my abuser was not to be trusted either. My abuser lied, but I am still left doubting everyone else I have ever encountered. I feel today that I have not felt genuine love or lust. Simply I have been a tool to be manipulated. It haunts my dreams still, my latent thoughts. Every time I take the plunge into online dating sites I feel there will be an inevitable manipulation and so its easier just not to bother.

I am empty and lonely inside. In pain. Upset. Fucked up.

Why did my abuser target me? What did she gain from it? Does she treat others the same way? If so why? If not, why not? Nobody deserves to live through what I lived through, no matter how hideous an individual they may be. I don’t think I’ll ever understand, I’ll never get an apology, I’ll never get justice. And without those I’ll probably never have complete closure – I’ll never be able to move on.

These are scars I carry with me. Scars that some cannot look beyond. Or scars that I think some cannot look beyond. My massive trust issues prevent me from even beginning to allow anyone to get close. Those that do are unlikely to become lovers, either because I wouldn’t let them or they simply aren’t interested. I’m too scared of letting someone in and being let go. I’m a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The upshot of it all it seems, is that I am suffering from some form of PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. At times manageable, at times not. It is like the abuse is continuing, even though I am far from the source. How can I explain this to friends and family let alone new people? Its internalised mostly. It’s worse the more its internalised. If I’m talking about it in person it means I’m trusting you – or trying to trust you. I’m probably testing you subconsciously. Because frankly, I don’t know to deal with this on my own.





One Response to “The absence of intimacy in a post-abuse life”

  1. Not my handcart :( (@miss_s_b) June 27, 2016 at 4:56 pm #


    This is a horrific thing to be going through, sweetheart. Maybe you need to connect more with others who have been there too? Is there a survivors’ network of some kind near you?

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