In the late summer I finally wrote a post detailing some of what happened. I was more ashamed of that publication than I can express. Allowing people to know the extent of my abuse was horribly vulnerable. I felt humiliated and weak. I was certain that as I revealed more, people would feel about me as I felt for myself--that I was tainted and dirty--that I had no worth or dignity--that my life should have ended years ago, because I had nothing left to give.
I removed the post after about a month. During that month I read the comments of people who responded. I think that was a turning point for me. People did not assign blame to me--they empathized. They mourned for the little girl inside me. And for the first time in many years, I wept because I didn't feel that I had to be alone in this anymore. There were people who didn't really know me, who had no personal connection, but who still cared about something that happened many years ago. That was, perhaps, the first time I believed that I might not be exempt from being able to find human love outside of one or two people.
The experience of showing a part of what had happened to an unknown audience made me feel a bit daring and reckless. I had made a new friend who seemed to enjoy chatting with me often. During one of our conversations I alluded to the abuse in my life, allowing him to know of one of the ways in which I had been raped. His reaction was unexpected and angry. Even though the anger was directed at my cousin, I was unprepared for his emotions. I pulled back immediately and avoided the subject for awhile. But one night I was online after midnight and he began chatting with me. I was tired, I'd had a very difficult day, and I lost all good sense during our conversation. But I think this was the first time that I felt any real emotion about my past and shared it, allowing myself to open up and be vulnerable. I used a word I never use--but it was the best I could come up with for this conversation. I had yet to admit that I had been raped. For whatever reason, rape seemed too horrible to accept. This was a step toward acknowledging that reality:
me: wow--there are lots of people hurting at 2:30 a.m.
Good Friend: yes, you're good to talk with them
me: I don't know why they talk to me--it doesn't solve anything, and I never tell them what to do.
Good Friend: people don't want their problems solved, they want them validated
me: You're probably right. That's an interesting thing to think about, for me, because I DON'T like to talk about my problems.
Good Friend: why not?
me: I suppose because I see them as so ugly, not really sharable
Good Friend: your problems may run deeper than other people's?
me: probably not. It's just how I see it
Good Friend: :) Well, it's not a bad thing unless you need to talk about things
me: That was one of my counseling assignments: Tell others about the abuse in my past. carefully select people I feel safe confiding in. So I blogged it instead. my therapist said it didn't count
Good Friend: he may be right, even talking about it online is different than actually talking to someone
me: So I told you a tiny little bit--and it was upsetting to you. I don't think I'll ever be able to complete that assignment
Good Friend: Well, be fair to me, the fact that you were hurt made me upset because I don't like you to be hurt, but it didn't bring me down
me: I'm not being unfair--I totally understand how it can be upsetting.
Good Friend: or make me feel that I was sorry I asked
me: I told my therapist I didn't understand why it was necessary to tell people. He said, until I can talk about it...it won't be over. I disagree.
Good Friend: really?
me: It was over a long time ago. and yes
Good Friend: but it isn't over for you, I mean, it still bothers you
me: But right now it only affects me. If I tell, then it affects more people. I need to understand why
Good Friend: understand why?
me: Why it's important to share the ugliness
Good Friend: because it's not your responsibility to carry it all?
me: The only one I could tell, whose responsibility it is, is my cousin. He already knows
Good Friend: I guess I'm talking more about the people who love you and want to help
and for you, too, it's tempting to lock things inside that hurt
me: AAGGHHH...this is agonizing.
Good Friend: sorry
me: No I'M sorry
Good Friend: lol, why be sorry? you're a wonderful, precious friend and I want you to be happy. I want there to be nothing you're afraid of. I think that no one who loves you views you as a burden
me: Yeah, but that's the thing--they don't know!!!
Good Friend: what don't they know?
me: How awful--how messed up--how hellishly miserable the things my therapist wants me to say, actually are.
Good Friend: I think, maybe, that's why he wants you to say them so that you can see, through other people's eyes, that there isn't anything that can make people no longer love you and that the things you think are the worst things of you have no bearing on how other people see and love you
me: So if I tell you that when I was almost 12 my cousin fucked the hell out of me--using every orifice possible, and leaving me to clean up my own blood and his semen--every possible night for nearly four months--that doesn't change how you feel about me?
Good Friend: no. I love you every bit as I ever did. I really, really want to give you a hug for having to deal with such a difficult thing
me: I just want to scream
Good Friend: but I love you, and the actions of someone so sick does not make me love you less
me: I don't understand--and I am not a stupid person--how knowing that I've been defiled can't change how people feel
Good Friend: You're not a stupid person at all, but you're missing what I see, which is that the fact that someone took advantage of you doesn't say anything about you. It says too much about him, but all it says is that you've had a horrible, crushing thing to deal with, and your bravery in dealing with it has made you beautiful to me. Maybe it's better explained this way. If I met a girl who had been burned in a fire, I would get to know her and find out who she was. But I wouldn't think that the fact that she got burned said anything about who she was. I know it's different. Metaphors are bad but in my mind, it's about the same distinction.
me: I think I know what you're saying. But I have to say just a couple of things.
First--I really don't want people to pity me. I don't know why that's important to me, but I feel rather fierce about it.
Good Friend: that's understandable
me: Second--I'm so sorry for putting my experiences in the way that I did--sort of attacking and very crass.
Good Friend: well, apology accepted, but I wasn't hurt by it and I wouldn't expect you to not have strong feelings about it
me: No, but I'm very good at controlling my language--I could have said it differently.
Good Friend: I wasn't offended
me: I was.
Good Friend: okay
me: I'm sorry, I'm just a little overwhelmed. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that I finally told someone--and I don't have a clue what I'm feeling--very confusing. And I'm also trying to move on, so you don't have to think about it anymore.
Good Friend: I'm all right thinking about it for a while
me: I might have an inkling of why my therapist gave me my assignment
Good Friend: why is that?
me: there's actually some relief being felt right now.
Good Friend: Think how much more it would be if I were an actual person!
me: I'm not quite ready for that.
Good Friend: well, that's also understandable, but it's not a bad thing to think about
me: Besides, then I would have to see the emotions felt by said actual person--I don't know if I could deal with that.
Good Friend: if you choose your confidante wisely, I think you'll see love
me: AND they would see me cry--I know I would hate that.
Good Friend: I also hate being vulnerable
me: Yeah. Good Friend, thanks for loving me, in spite of me
Good Friend: Well, I honestly, honestly mean it when I say you've never given me any reason not to love you, and you continue always to be lovable
me: and I love you.
Good Friend: :) then I think we should continue to be friends
me: Okay. Good night
Good Friend: Okay. Good night