It’s Halloween of course. We listened to Thriller, we carved pumpkins, I smeared fake blood all over my face and frightened children. Literally, they wouldn’t come to get sweets from me. My friends had to take over answering the door.
All the festivity reminded me of Christmas. We decorated the house and did lots of cooking. But instead of being worried about the family dynamics, I was looking forward to seeing our friends, people who truly know me. That has been the incredible silver lining in the psychiatric illness cloud.
When I was admitted to the Priory, I was terrified of who I would be living with there. I had no idea what to expect. And what I least expected was to make friends for life. I really mean that. The people I met there are like family now. I love them very deeply. I love their warmth, their twisted sense of humour and their brokenness. Because it’s all real. Working in group together every day, we learned to know and love one another in a truly genuine way.
So I was happy to see some of my Priory friends tonight. They know all the crap I’m going through. They don’t ask about it, or treat me like I’m different. And they know if I need to speak about it I will. There is solid comfort in having people around me that know my history and still want to be close to me.
Apologies, but here begins a rather epic rant. I am feeling very low tonight.
Before going to the Priory, I never really talked to anyone (other than my therapist) about the sexual abuse I was victim to as a young child. I didn’t want to. There were a number of reasons, all powerful influences on me. The biggest; my abuser was my older brother, and I was utterly terrified of my family being torn apart. I wanted everything to be OK, for us to stay together and keep going like we were. I thought if I stayed quiet and acted normal, it would all blow over. And to a degree, this worked.
I haven’t shared much of this narrative before. I don’t know why I am now. Perhaps it is because I have shared some conversations online with people who understand what I’ve been through. That definitely gives me strength. Maybe I feel like there is something poetic in sharing this now; on a night with a dark theme, an occasion where we all pretend we are someone else.
I’ve done well at pretending to be someone else. I’ve done it for 18 years. I completely abandoned that abused, violated, distressed little girl, so I could strive to keep living out the story my parents had hoped for. I worked at this. I worked so hard not to let anything get to me. I got my head down at school, achieving good grades and making friends. I went to Uni and got two degrees. I had bouts of alcohol abuse, drug abuse and self-harm. They came and went, and I emerged and carried on as normal.
But I never felt like I was OK. I honestly cannot remember feeling free. Ever. How sad is that? For as long as I can recall, an impending dread has followed me. It’s like I knew my childhood was going to catch up with me at some point. And inevitably it did.
I say that, but even now, I am so dissociated from my own experience that I don’t honestly believe I am traumatised. I understand the symptoms and diagnoses, but I believe I am just being weak willed and I have chosen to be this dysfunctional. It just isn’t logical for me, that a person could be abused at ages 10-11 and then live for 18 years with little or no psychological symptoms.
I often read about abuse and trauma and I can see that I am a stereotypical PTSD sufferer. I’ve got the depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of direction, no sex drive, flashbacks, nightmares etc., but I don’t see myself as sick. I think I should be able to move on. I am choosing not to function, so I could decide to be OK again.
I’m pretty sure that’s what my family think too. In fact, I know that’s how my dad feels. He has told me that my recent decision to disown my brother is unnecessary and hateful. He says my brother is a different person now.
They take the view that I am punishing my brother now for what he did to me when I was a child. They say he was ‘a young sixteen’ when he forced himself on me. They have no idea what he was. They don’t see that he groomed me. He educated me about sex, then continued the ‘education’ by showing me how things were done. It scared me and made me feel disgusting. It still makes me feel disgusting now. He was never just an innocent child experimenting. It was planned, calculated, he knew to wait until my parents had gone out for the evening to ask me to his room. He was a monster, and no, no I don’t believe he is any different now.
I realise I’ve written a lot. I feel like I needed to vent. I’ve been really down the last couple of days. I’ve been angry and frustrated and lonely in my chaotic head. I’ve started fantasising about my exit strategy again. The self-destructive, reckless part of me has been dormant for a while, but she’s resurrected herself with renewed strength. And I’m not confident I can find the energy to keep battling her.