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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's not rocket science...more's the pity

This paragraph has nothing to do with my post topic:
Last night I was at a gathering with so many people I love--some of whom I haven't seen for awhile and only talked with sporadically over the past year. I've missed them--so if you were one of those with me last night, and I kept hugging you, just know that I'm making up for not being able to do it on a regular basis, and I love you. I also got to meet the parents of a friend, and they, Darrin, and I stayed up way too late talking and getting to know one another--I love doing that. Oh, and Danish Boy, I adore you, but I just have to say that picking me up off the ground when you hug me does not enhance my belief that I am Wonder Woman--in fact it makes me feel a bit less than super-heroine-ish, and it can't be good for your back. However, for one of your hugs, if that's a necessary component, I suppose I can sacrifice my all-powerful delusions for a few seconds. But I'm still worried about your back.

I was talking with Therapist a couple of months ago about some of the problems I have understanding people's motives as they interact with me. I'm suspicious when they're kind. I wonder if they're trying to hurt or deceive me in some way. These are not conscious thoughts, but feelings rumbling beneath the surface, and they usually only come into play when I don't feel in control of the relationship. I asked if I was a control freak. Therapist said no, I'm feeling the effects of PTSD, which often inhibit human interaction and relationships. He said that even though I seek out and allow intimacy in friendships and love relationships (and I do that, in his opinion, as a stubborn insistence that I will not allow myself to be controlled by a condition induced by my past), I still feel the symptoms such actions incite. That's beyond my control. And as as a result of feeling uneasy, I find myself acting in uncharacteristic ways sometimes.

I think he's probably right, but I asked him why I continue to have a core belief that I have nothing to contribute to any relationship. I've tried to rid myself of it, and all evidence points to the contrary, but it persists. Therapist believes this stems from messages I received as a child, and the sexual trauma I experienced sealed that belief in my heart. Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are not uncommon in those who have experiences similar to mine. But the only place I feel those things are in interpersonal relationships. In the professional world, I feel powerful and capable. Socially, I don't worry about interacting with strangers (unless they touch me). But in times when I allow closeness with people I love, an inner battle takes place as my heart reminds my head that it's not good for them to be with me.

Obviously, I'm not listening to my heart, because I continue to seek out those I love. But I told Therapist that I don't understand why they stay. It makes sense to me that they would leave after awhile, but they don't. I recently visited a friend I had not seen nor spoken to for more than eight years. She told me she had missed me, asked why I disappeared, called me a liar when I made up an excuse, and listened to my labored explanation of what I've been through emotionally for the past decade. Then she insisted I hear of her harrowing experiences with an unfaithful husband, ugly divorce, molestation of one of her children (by a brother-in-law), and subsequent growth, blessings, and remarriage. Then she said, "Sam, don't disappear again. I needed you and you weren't there. I'll never not need you. I think, when you go through hard things, you should tell me, not stop talking." How about that. She forgave me for not being around when she needed me, then she invited me to stay in her life. Why?

I told Therapist I don't understand why people endure touch with me--especially Tolkien Boy who has had greater opportunity than others for such an experience. Therapist said if they don't draw back within sixty seconds, they're not enduring the touch, they're enjoying it. I told him I'm having difficulty understanding how people can enjoy touch from me. I even feel this in my interactions with Darrin. Any physical contact beyond holding his hand, kissing him briefly, or having his arm about me, is usually preceded by some sort of verbal "Is this okay?" from me. It's not that I feel I need permission to touch my husband, I just can't seem to make the leap into the belief that he actually wants and needs my touch and close proximity--even though my head knows he does.

I understand that I'm not explaining this well. I have difficulty verbalizing many of the dichotomous feelings and beliefs that live inside me. But Therapist knew what I was talking about, as he often does. He said, "I think you'll never understand why people want to have contact with you unless you ask them how they feel about it." I hate it when he says that. And I refused to do anything about his suggestion for nearly two months, although I made the attempt occasionally, got freaked out, and backed off sometimes to the point of not talking to anyone for a day or two.

But my need to know never goes away. And I finally got to the point where I had to know--and naturally, Tolkien Boy was my target because I talk to him often, he probably touches me as much as anyone else (excluding Darrin, of course, who should and does touch me more than any other person), and because I thought he might tell me, maybe. But I spent forever trying to ask the questions for which I wanted answers, and it was difficult. When I finally got to the point where I was coherently framing words, I believe what came out was something like this: "Why do you stay with me?" meaning, when we're physically together, why do you hold me when I'm upset or sad, or sometimes, neither, but just because we are together? He gave me the answers I knew he would...we're friends...he loves me... but I wanted more.

I said, "No. Why do you stay? What are you getting out of it?" That came out a bit more belligerently than I intended. But this was important to me. I had to know. His response was, "What are you getting out of it?" I was sure I'd told him on many occasions how I've been able to make connections, learn things about myself, and recognize that I could be empowered in intimate situations simply because he has taken the time to allow prolonged touch with me--the type that is uncolored by neediness, or sexuality, or haste. Just simple physical connection that endures longer than a brief hug. But he said I hadn't told him any benefits I gain from being with him in that way. So I began rattling off everything of importance to me that I gain in those circumstances--especially the amazing feelings of security, and being loved and valued just because I'm me. And when I was done he said simply, "And can you believe that those things you feel from me, I also feel from you?"

Therein lies the problem. I have difficulty believing that. I desperately want to, because then the relationship feels healthy and balanced. I can no longer feel that I'm not giving back, but simply taking selfishly. But as he always is, Therapist was right. Asking the question is the first step in learning to believe. And as is my tradition, I will ponder this for awhile. Tolkien Boy doesn't usually lie to me, nor I to him, unless we're classifying animals and I feel the need to giggle. So I have no reason to think he might be making something up to keep me from talking incessantly about this latest obsession. And he sounded as though he was sincere, although there's a part of me that's aggravated because he made me say all the reasons I enjoy being with him and he simply copped out by concurring. In spite of that, my head believes him. I'm still working on that obnoxious heart of mine.

Darrin is astounded that I feel even an iota of self-worthlessness. He points out that I interact with people all the time, many of whom seek me out. He wonders how such feelings can persist as I am confronted with daily evidence that I am loved and valued. 

I guess I just need to keep hearing the words. I have so many words from my past that I need to replace. Each time Sully tells me I'm important to him, every time AtP pops up with an "I love you" in my chat box, the fact that Ambrosia and others allow me to impose in their homes when I'm in traveling, my frequent interactions with Tolkien Boy and eternally long phone calls with Jason, as well as many other messages of love and acceptance are taking their toll. Someday, who knows? I might just learn how to trust all those things. And when I do, a large part of PTSD will no longer be bothersome or persistent

It's going to take some time, but I still plan to win. The difference today is that I'm understanding that I won't win alone. But just so you know, Therapist, even though I'm admitting once again that you're right--it still ticks me off. I really wanted to have a solo act and you've proved I not only need back-up, but I'm going to have to share the limelight with lots of people. And I suppose, in the end, I don't even get to choose who they are. It has to be a mutual decision. I believe, dear Therapist, you are a tyrant.


  1. I'm sorry I didn't end up getting to see you yesterday. Although I wouldn't have been terribly good company anyway.

    Items of business: You are never an imposition. I am always delighted to have you here. Also, I love it when you hug me. It means you trust me and think we are friends. And it feels nice. And since I'm somewhat reticent about things like that, I don't usually initiate them.

    I hope you had a safe trip back.

  2. Yay Sam! I am so impressed. And it cracks me up when you get ticked off at Therapist.