So, I’m sure that I have many other things to write about…. but oh shit, this seems important again. So I’ve mentioned this great guy who I’m with that is making an effort to understand what I’m going through and try to be supportive. Well right now I’m angry at him for not understanding me and not making me feel heard (an emotional trigger for me). I’ve woke up cranky and irritated. I feel like I support him lots (which I do). But I’m not sure if I feel it the other way. Partly it could be because it’s still a fairly new relationship, but also I think its partly down to my emotional detachment towards him at the moment…. but also realistically there is a part that is down to him not being able to support me due to my abuse past which has created complex triggers, and partly due to his emotional baggage which makes him feel inferior and incapable.
So, what do I do with that? I have been feeling emotionally triggered around not being heard. This morning I was reflecting (possibly negative cycling) on the fact that people I should have been able to trust have broke that. I think my last relationship put me back considerably. This was the first person I opened up to, I had just started the recovery process from childhood sexual abuse, very much supported to do so by my partner at the time. He used to pick me up from counselling, be very comforting and present. Fast forward to when we were in a difficult work situation abroad (I was his boss, which I think dinted his ego but he didn’t handle it well). He started to slip into depression (before we left the country he said he sometimes felt down but could manage it – he didn’t have depression, he was fine).
I had no emotional support. The first lot of counselling I had, lasting 12 sessions (thanks NHS but not enough in this circumstance) had finished just before we started the job abroad. A box had been opened that I had no way of shutting, I started with extreme emotional flashbacks when in France. Really bad panic and anxiety, feeling the need to escape certain situations. My partner at the time had started shutting down towards me completely and was refusing in anyway to listen to what I was going through. I tried constantly to talk to him about how I was feeling disconnected from him, the things I was going through in my head. He wouldn’t engage, he would stare into space. He would pick his fingernails. He would look blankly at something on the wall.
I was completely emotionally crushed. The first person I put my trust into had started to deny me my feelings completely. He wouldn’t even entertain anything I said. It was like a really tacit form of emotional control, he would be nice and receptive if I didn’t try to talk about anything (we could have fun etc. but as soon as I tried in any way possible to talk about us/how I was feeling it was shut down). I excused his behavior as I found out the depressive state he was in. This was possibly the hardest 6 months of my life. I was close to suicide from the extreme frustration of not being heard. Again by the person that was supposed to love and respect me. His inability (again I understand due to his mental illness) to listen and engage with what I was going through was heartbreaking, to feel that I had safety and security, and then for that person to take it away again was too much. I ended up at the doctors getting anti-anxiety pills in France, and a session of counselling. I was at the edge of what was humanly possible to manage emotionally. The emotional flashbacks were so frequent I never came down.
Only now, 2 years on have I realised that his behaviours and refusal to listen to me were triggering me into extreme anxiety everyday. Putting me back in my emotional state of childhood, of being ignored, not listened to, not having my feelings considered by both my abuser and my parents. What I effectively did though, for a year and a half was convince myself that I wanted to be in this relationship, even after this person had completely started to deny me my emotional and basic human needs. Looking back at the pain I was in and going through, having the person you love deny you daily any comfort (or an ear) was excruciating. I felt this most days. Only when back in the UK, a year and a half after the fateful start of the job in France did I start to get counselling on the basis of PTSD. I got some short term CBT while on the waiting list and sensed the person was apprehensive about this relationship. I finally got counselling at a specialised abuse centre. At the same time I was considering relationship counselling with the BF.
My initial appointment with the adviser at the abuse service resulted in them telling me not to have relationship counselling with that partner as he is emotionally abusive. Months later again, I realise this is true. I try to talk to my partner about this, obviously he denies it. I try and talk about how he isn’t this big bad abuser that is putting me down, shouting at me. But how through refusing to engage with me about anything I’m going through, and out right denying me any outlet for my feelings he is being emotionally abusive. I start to clearly see his actions, and behaviours. At times I hadn’t handled situations well. I flew off the handle at not being heard. I got into rages because he would completely ignore me, like completely. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could treat somebody like this. If I saw the person I love in such intense pain, crying, hurting so bad – could I just leave them in bits, ignore them? No way. So why hadn’t I identified that him doing that to me for a year and half was a problem?
I changed tack, at the end I calmly spoke to him, at times with tears running down my face. The emotional pain close to unbearable…. Explaining how I felt…. As usual the disinterested face, looking at something on the wall. I have an emotional response at one point, anger or something. I see a smile flicker across his face. He wants me to be angry, to have outbursts. He wants a get out clause to say “it’s her not me”. The more I reflect on the relationship the more I dislike him and how it treat me like shit for so long. How he tried to emotionally manipulate me. How again I had the face of someone loving, as long as I behaved in certain ways and didn’t articulate my feelings. I could have his love, as long as I didn’t make my feelings or emotions heard. Any similarities here with a sexual abuser of children. Someone who presents a face of love but abuses.
So, present day. I don’t trust my own perception of my partner. I know he is trying to be understanding. I know that he loves me. But that love for me as a child and at times as an adult doesn’t mean security. It represents a threat. It represents someone using that love to get the outcome they want or need. Be it sexual gratification, the ability to say “she’s the problem not me”. I’ve felt emotionally detached from my current BF most of the time over the last few months. We have a great time together, lots of fun. But I don’t trust his love for me to not be something threatening. I don’t trust that he is going to listen to how I’m feeling and hear me when I say I hurt. I’m angry at him, for nothing. I woke up angry at him, but I realise it’s not him I’m angry at. It’s all my past abusers for making me feel worthless and subhuman, not of the same value as other people, deserving of abuse. The real difficulty in this though, is despite this realisation I don’t trust myself and my perception. Which is another post……