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Toxic Shame

I’ve been carrying some toxic shame with me my entire life, unknowingly, after the abuse by my Granddad. The shame of feeling dirty, different, compliant, not protecting myself, the shame of being completely immobilised. I didn’t know that I felt like this until recently. I’ve always carried so much shame in me for past events, things I’ve done wrong, could have done differently. By no means do I have a life of regret, I’m happy with where I’ve got to, but I’ve got here in parts feeling like a worthless piece of shit, full of shame for who I am.  Sometimes my self hate and disgust is so bad I could rip off my skin.

I’ve been preyed upon many times, a new realisation as of today. Hence the blog, I always thought I’d been complicit and consenting in many of my sexual relationships growing up but I now realise in the most part I was often just not reacting when I wanted to say no. Reliving being frozen like I was as a child whenever left with my Grandad. Going through the motions of being present, but absent, numb, elsewhere. Not knowing how to say no. I prided myself on not being preyed upon by predatory men, but I realise the men that I had less than consensual sex with were more people that made me feel like I should, like I was obligated. This is still being preyed upon! My vulnerability was used against me, not necessarily on purpose by whichever sexual partner but I was in no place to truly consent. I’m not saying these incidences were rape, far from it, but I had no understanding of my right and power to say no. And I’m only just realising this now at 35 years old.

In some ways I’d used my sexuality as a tool of empowerment, but I now realise it was a poor shield for my vulnerability. I was ashamed and in later life tried to take this power back through sexual encounters where I felt powerful and in control, but in fact I was mostly disconnected and often not feeling. I was hiding my hurt, vulnerability and pain- but I did reclaim some power in this. Although it wasn’t a particularly “healing” experience.

I’ve just been processing the shame I’ve held about an event around a year ago. At this point I was in a much worse place and not identifying my triggers so much. I’d been with a friend drinking, not super heavily but enough. I was very triggered, we’d had heavy conversations about the abuse but in fact she isn’t someone I trust fully and this triggered me further. We ended up in a bar, then all I remember is I woke up naked on the floor of a house with multiple people in the room with no recollection of the night. From my body I knew that nothing had happened sexually, only from my vagina/sense of self. I was petrified, in the worse state I’ve been in. Inconsolable, full of shame (I’d not had any evening where I’d even consider that something could have happened that might jeopardise my new relationship). I was so distressed, suicidal for causing the hurt feelings of my new partner. I realised I didn’t care what had happened to me that I cared if I had hurt him. Exposing new levels of low self worth that I didn’t even realise.

I had just recently gotten with my partner at this point, and I was in love. What the fuck had I done. I’d ruined everything. I explained to him about what had happened not remembering and waking up on a floor naked- other people in the room, and have since been drunk only 2 times in the last year. My life has changed completely and in fact because of this night, but more because of the love I feel for my partner everything changed, I never wanted to be in a position where I could hurt him by not knowing what was going on. Drugs and drink had always been a huge part of my life, but this was the turning point.

From herein I started to recognise when I was triggered or in a flashback, I now know that I was in a flashback that night. I was extremely vulnerable. My friend had carried on drinking and I had stopped I didn’t drink an extreme amount, she was talking to people leaving me on my own. Men were trying to chat me up, I I didn’t resist. The shame I feel/felt about this is immense. How can I behave in this way, especially when in love. What a horrible shit of a person am I to do such a thing to someone I care about. I’ve carried this for a year….

 The shame I felt around that evening was huge. My friend says I might have kissed two people, it feels awful to write it. And at the time as I didn’t remember that fact,so I didn’t tell my partner. I did tell him I knew I hadn’t had sex but woke up naked on a floor, having no clue what had happened but that I knew sexually nothing had but that I could have kissed someone. I’ve since remembered very recently that I got there with a man and undressed, I came out of my flashback of immobility and compliance (that I didn’t know I was in at the time) and went to sleep on the floor.

I’ve been so full of shame for a year. I’ve only just realised that yes I never want to put myself or my partner in that position, and I haven’t. But also that, I was in a flashback. I was in compliance and immobility. When I registered what was happening I stopped it. But the guilt I have felt since then has been huge, the shame and anguish that I had tainted our relationship. That I had embedded a seed of doubt in my partners head. That I’ve ruined what was good in my life. I’ve carried so much hurt and shame.

Ive realised yes, I made a mistake. But this incident as painful as it still is for me has made me start to look after myself and respect myself, stop getting drunk (which I would do several times a week), understand my feelings and needs more. Tonight I was trying to sleep and started to cry as I realised, yes I made a mistake but my partner has accepted that I was in a flashback/blacked out (I was also having blackouts at the time, which I’ve now identified I get when under severe emotional stress with or without alcohol). He accepted me and loved me still.

But I still haven’t accepted myself. I’ve carried toxic shame. In some ways I don’t want to let go because I never want to “slip up” and be drunk and vulnerable, especially as if I did drink, then got triggered I would have no idea what was happening. I might comply to something, if triggered. I know now though I did not and would not ever hurt my partner intentionally, the extreme toxic soul destroying shame I feel is underserving. When I think about it from the perspective of someone else I feel compassion, so why did I have none for me? Someone vulnerable, suffering blackouts. Under extreme emotional strain, mostly in flashbacks but not able to identify them at that time…. Someone who stopped a situation and didn’t let escalate into sex, stopped they way they drank and started to take control. I do need to forgive myself, and today was the first step. A year on.

I recognise that I would never hurt my partner intentioanally, so I’ve removed where the unintentional might happen. I know some people might judge and say I was just drunk, but no way. Unless triggered or in a flashback I would no way comply to someones advances intoxicated or not, I know that this compliance and immobility is a product of my abuse. My forced compliance time and again. I know that my shame should be my abusers shame. I want to free myself of the shame I’ve felt for years. The shame of abuse, the shame of sexual experiences when I didn’t know how to say no, the shame of exploring my sexuality with people I didn’t like or find attractive, the shame of not having self respect and self worth, the shame of immobility. And I recognise this shame was given to me, I didn’t ask for it, I feel shame when its due but I do not deserve to feel shameful to my core. I deserve to be respected. And I intend to be, I’m starting to release the shame of my past. Get angry at the people who made me feel ashamed. Yes I make mistakes, but I have compassion for myself. I’m not perfect. If my partner loves me still and forgives me, so should I.

But it is still hard letting go of judgement. I told some friends about the incident. Ones that don’t know the abuse side so well, and its hard for me. Them judging that I did something to hurt my partner, that I don’t love him. I have work on being secure that I know that it is the love that I feel for my partner that has changed everything, that he was the catalyst for this section of my recovery by stopping drinking and getting myself in vulnerable situations.  The road to loving myself after abuse is so hard. I am trying, and learning everyday.

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