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Switch to Forum Live View Several Big Walls to Climb Before I Leave Singledom
8 years ago  ::  Feb 24, 2010 - 12:36AM #1
Posts: 1

It's not usually in my personality to reach out online for help and hope like I am about to do, but I am trying to make a lasting change in my life, so I suppose this fits the bill.

Here's the deal: After many a talk with my therapist, who is a godsend, and my closest friends, who are true angels in my life, we have all collectively come to the conclusion that the last piece of the puzzle needed for me to really get better is to enter into a relationship. This may sound rather idealistic, as it places perhaps too much importance on being in a relationship, but there are some good reasons for this, and you may permit me, I'd like to explain.

A year ago, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or rather diagnosed for the third time before I finally believed it), and have a rich history of depression, suicide attempts, anxiety disorders (which have in the last year culminated to panic attacks and frequent nightmares. How fun.), as well as several bouts of Anorexia Nervosa and, also in the last year, Dissociation*1. Right now, the PTSD and dissociation are the things that are still dominating my life, though I still wrestle with the others.

The thing is, I relive the times when my parents or sisters screamed or beat me when I am touched. Moreover, I grow extremely anxious in large groups of people (especially ones I am not intimate friends with) as I feel that if I don't put on a happy face - - or a null and void face - - then I am going to get hurt, thrown out of my current abode (which is a college dormitory, currently), and left alone to die. Moreover, the dissociation makes me seem to be a lump on a log a good chunk of the time simply because I'm nervous and my brain is trying to protect me, not to mention the fact that I cannot recall much of anything that happened between the time I was 9 and 17. (As a point of reference, I am 19 now, turning 20 in May)

I was emotionally and physically abused and neglected (mostly in the form of isolation) when I younger, which is the primary cause to all of this craziness, and my therapist (who is one of smartest people I have ever encountered, and I wholeheartedly trust) and friends have agreed that what was, upon entering college, my frenzied desperation toward finding someone to love and love me was in fact the right aim, just the wrong practice and mentality: It seems that I need to know that there are people who truly care about me for me and solely because I am who I am before I will start feeling safe in the world again.

I am trying my hardest to control my unconcious craving for someone I can feel totally safe with, and attempting to find someone, but that is rather hard when A: My mental illnesses get in the way of normal socializing, B: I don't know how to tell when someone is interested in me or not, or when its just in my head, and C: Can't handle much touching or sensuality, which is seems to be a norm with my generation and the gay community, of which I am a part of.

I know there are many things I have to deal with on my own, but I hope that someone, anyone, can give me some advice, or even just support, which I've been lacking lately. (I transferred to the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities this last semester {product of the PTSD me}, and have yet to find people whose company I enjoy) This is a large amount of things to take in and digest, and are plenty hard to consider let alone work with/around, but, again, I ask anyone who has anything to say to please say it.




*1: This one is a little less common then some of the other things I mentioned, so just in case you're unaware, dissociation is basically when the self and the body no longer match up. In other words, it feels as if I don't exist, or that I'm living in a movie and watching my body from the outside. It developed in me as a coping mechanism to fear, usually brought up by my frantic times or reliving experiences. ("a little less common"...that's sounds awful. Sorry!)

(Note: Sorry if I came off sounding flippant or arrogant about the subject: I've been called the latter of the two of those before, and I truly don't mean to put myself above anyone else - I'm just, well, trying to speak my mind without stating every self doubt that surges through my head. As for the flippantness, I try not to speak too heavily on these topics because it makes me think that I'm coping well - - even though I know I'm really not - - and other people don't seem to fond of me getting into the thick of it all.)

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8 years ago  ::  Feb 24, 2010 - 11:20AM #2
Posts: 2,898

howdy john!

all very interesting (that's my favourite word :>) my thoughts are... i can see how a romantic relationship could be a nice aim, but i don't quite see how one could be a good fix. maybe you could say a little more about what your therapist and friends have to say about what they think a relationship could do for you. or what sort of relationship exactly.

i mean, relationships happen at the speed of impulse - a zillion times faster than thought. they rely on a person having certain impulses as an instinctive habit. without those impulses, you don't get a relationship. you have to train them up before, if you see what i'm trying to get at.

also, relationships are not just about companionship and one's personal state of being. they are also 'business,' formal, and involve being a participant in society in a restricted kind of way. i don't just mean you have to faithful to your partner. i mean that in return for recognition and supports from the community at large, you open up your sexual practices and conduct in many other areas for regulation. they're not private but a public matter. many people don't agree with this notion and want to put a stop to it, but i think it's an indefeatable social reality one has to square off with. if you've got a marriage certificate but aren't submitting to the regulation, that would be another case of not really having a relationship.

on the other hand, practice makes perfect. and humans are social animals. we are not biologically self-regulating creatures. our system setpoints, our level of reactivity and how fast we return to equilibrium, depends on feedback from our packmates if you will. a person needs a packmate to, well, become a packmate.

i guess i'm headed toward the idea that dating should be your immediate goal. dating, which is practice for a relationship. maybe decide later if you want to subject yourself to anything like a formal relationship (which maybe was never the question?)

ok. just thinking things out aloud here...


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8 years ago  ::  Feb 24, 2010 - 1:08PM #3
Posts: 10,165

I did not have your level of abuse but I did have all your issues as a teenager.  My first psychiatrist thought the same as your therapist.  He thought that love would be part of my healing process.  He was wrong.  In general, men are not that great with broken women.  Nor should they be, I suppose. 

I have done the dissociation thing as well.  I went totally numb before my first suicide attempt (that was during physical and severe psycho abuse from my mother.  She was threatening to drive us into ongoing traffic and kill us.) and it took weeks of hospitalization to emerge from it.  I had periods of that numbness the year before.  It is a pretty bleak place to be.  I do have sincere empathy for you.

What i have found is that  you can't get healing from others.  You can heal, though.  Life can be very, very good.  You don't have to live your life exactly like everyone else to be happy.  There are alternatives. 

I think Lamb is right.  Dating is trial and error. You learn what you can give and what you need to take.  If you should find that you can't do the relationship thing, that is okay too.  You can still be happy.  Please, I am being honest about that.  You can have a quality life with good friends and perhaps a career that you love.  Life doesn't have to be about relationships.

My sincere blessings are with you on your journey.  I do know how tough a journey it is.  However, never think that it can't be over. It can.

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8 years ago  ::  Feb 24, 2010 - 7:44PM #4
Posts: 9,954


Based on what you've disclosed, i think that a "relationship" may be a bit too much of a step, at present.  It may be better for you to a) learn how to establish and maintain strong boundaries, and b) learn how to be a FRIEND, while remaining on-guard as to those who see kindness as weakness, and then take as much advantage as possible.

If you think books may be helpful, "Boundaries," by Cloud and Townsend(iirc) may assist with the former; for the latter suggestion, i.e. how to be a good friend, i don't know of any good books on that subject, offhand.

Lots of times, the only way to learn who your real friends are is after much trial and error, and the inevitable pain that comes when you realize that you've been betrayed; then, too, there are lots of "fair-weather" friends, that is, people who will be friendly to you until a crisis comes in your life, at which time they'll throw you away like last week's garbage.

Unfortunately, it's often hard to tell who your real friends are until they refuse to dump you.

But as a strong mutual friendship is probably the only true basis for a lasting relationship(assuming that's what you want), it may be better for you to work on the former before working on the latter.

LTR's don't "just happen."  A Long-Term Relationship often involves a great deal of mutual work/listening/support, and shouldering the responsibility that this requires is seemingly an ever-diminishing character trait, these days. 

I'm sorry for the abuse you were required to endure, and the long-lasting effects it has had on your social development and emotional health; i congratulate you on your recognizing your limitations in these areas, and your willingness to work to correct or re-create them.


"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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8 years ago  ::  Feb 26, 2010 - 6:29AM #5
Posts: 74

Hi John

Firstly, congratulations on your endeavours to grow, change and release your past.  Everyone, no matter how wholesome or wonderful their upbringing is in some way wounded by their childhood and familial patterns in some way.  Your upbringing sounds particularly harsh and I feel for you.

Part of being an adult is to take responsibility for your life and begin to change it so it starts to become the way you want it to be........... this is the real journey of life I think. 

My first feeling when I read your post was "softly softly"..... in that sometimes the best way to have a relationship is to begin being comfortable and safe with people as friends.  Oftentimes things then progress of their own accord.

I was brought up in what seemed like a loving home on the surface.  In my case my mother was overly zealous with her Catholicism.  I was one of 5 girls with a very reclusive father and my mum was definitely the dominant force in the family.  My mother sent the 5 of us to all girl catholic schools and very overly strict with regards to dating, etc.  The long term damage was that all of us have had problems at different points in feeling comfortable around men.  Two of my sisters had issues around their sexuality (due to the catholic guilt stuff).  We were all late bloomers.  My Mum is kicking herself now because we are all nearing 40 and she has only one grandchild.......... Lol!

Part of my journey at one point was to have hypnotherapy to feel comfortable round men.  I did affirmations for a while to have men friends and (be careful what you wish for!!!) my next job was working with 70 men!!  Lol, that definitely helped but it was confronting at the start!

My first boyfriend started as a good friend in would you believe, a Catholic youth group.  We got to know each other over the space of a year before anything happened.  Our relationship lasted for 4 years in total but 20 years later we still keep in touch because the basis of our relationship was friendship.  He had a more relaxed stance about religion and that helped a lot in releasing a lot of the damaging beliefs I had around sexuality.

I personally feel this would be the safest way for you with regards to relationships.  I dated on and off for 10 years and I have to say that sometimes it can be a jungle out there.  If you are emotionally vulnerable it can be harmful.  Hold out for someone who will accept you as you are.  That person will be someone who will be accepting of your needs and happy to help you on your journey of growth.

I hope that helps.

I found this quote the other day which I feel sums it all up:

"Everything that is beautiful is cracked, that's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen

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8 years ago  ::  Feb 26, 2010 - 6:43AM #6
Posts: 74

Forgot to add this, have you thought about finding a really supportive and kind massage therapist.  Someone who over time can get you comfortable with touch?  Maybe that could help with the disassociation too?

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