Like my Mother, I inherited the need to take care of everyone else first, myself last. It is time to end this cycle, so to start, I will tell the story of my life, what led to my anxiety issues and how I’ve been dealing. It’s a long story so I hope you have time.
When I was 4 or 5 (the memory is very faint), I had a babysitter who would like to “play games” with me while we were alone. While I felt wrong about the games, I mistook that feeling to be the same feeling when I snuck over to the old lady’s house down the street for a popsicle before a meal. Like a secret that if I told, I would be in trouble, because aren’t games like popsicles?? Shouldn’t you want them? So if they’re wrong to have, you must be the one doing something wrong. My parents had no reason to suspect anything. As far as they knew, I was just a very affectionate child, nothing at that time would have made them think anything else. Just like they never could have known that my older brother (only 9-10 years old at the time it started) was playing the same sort of games with me.
But I’m an adult now, and I need to work through these issues. I have to stop hiding from them. They scare me because I know I can’t fix them or make them go away, but they eat away at me to the point that I can’t even stand up for myself. I try to get angry with someone and I can’t, so I get angry with myself fro being so weak and all I can do is cry. I’m sick of being walked all over, I’m sick of people using me as a doormat because they know I won’t fight back. I’m sick of holding onto friends who use me because I’m afraid I’ll be alone if I don’t let them, and being alone means I’m vulnerable. It’s time to deal with this head on, no hiding, just keep pushing through. So first thing to deal with: Why did I “let” it happen the first time? I seem to have already touched on that a bit, obviously I was too young to really know it was wrong and I mistook my wrong feelings about it for something else. Well, what about with my older brother? I was older then. But still, I was only 6-7 years old and had been molested before, this game was nothing new. Plus it provided me with a connection to my older brother who I respected and looked up to. I felt if anyone knew it would break my special bond with him. This went on for about 3 years, then, shortly after my brother reached puberty, he realized what he was doing was wrong. He ended it abruptly and I remember thinking I had done something wrong. I was so screwed up that even though I didn’t enjoy the “game”, I had come to see it as assurance that my brother liked me, and for him to walk away meant I was no longer liked. It’s actually the last part that has been the hardest for me to come to terms with. As horrible as everything was, he was a pre-pubescent boy, my guess is he was molested himself and was acting that out on me, or maybe he saw someone be molested or even heard about it. In any way, he was still a confused kid, he meant no wrong, and when he was old enough to realize what he was doing, he stopped. As for me “allowing” it, I was a young kid, desperate for my older brother to love me and didn’t really get that it was not normal. But the last part, where I begged him to play more with me, after he stopped, that took a long time for me to understand in a different light than “I wanted it”. I wanted the connection, I wanted what I thought it meant, I equated what was happening with acceptance and a special bond, instead of seeing it for what it was. I was just a messed up kid who had been mind-fucked most of her life. (as a side note, my brother has grown into a wonderful adult who takes good care of me and would never do the things he did ever again. But I have yet to find the courage to bring up this stuff with him and let him know I have forgiven him).
Anyway, I blocked every memory of these instances out of my mind shortly after it all ended. I had a normal transition into puberty (tantrums, etc) with no recollection of the past. Then, at age 16, I was posed with a threat to my sexual safety in my own home. A guy who was mentally ill and who had told my father when I was 8 that he wanted to rape me, found himself homeless, so my dad and then-step mother (she was the one who fought for it), let him move in to my house. I was to sleep next door on my grandmother’s recliner, on which I got little to no sleep due to being angry and very uncomfortable. I went to school the next day exhausted, my English teacher asked me what was wrong and I told him. He was furious as well and offered to talk with my parents but I didn’t want to make waves, so I declined his offer so I could stand up on my own. The guy didn’t leave for several months, I was allowed back into my house and he was kicked out into a tent, but that only lasted till it got cold out, then he got moved to the couch, but my stepmom didn’t want to see him in the mornings so he got moved to my brother’s old room, the room next to mine. Night after night I would only allow myself an hour of sleep, and that was the hour I knew other people were already up. I was beyond fatigued and catching sleep in class. My grades never suffered because I was fortunate to be very intelligent. During this time, I went bowling with some friends. Only one of those friends still talks with me, the rest I guess got so freaked out by what happened. In their defense, I never explained what happened, but I’m sure they still would have thought of me as unstable (Heck, I was convinced I was losing it). I was walking by an arcade game at the bowling alley and something about the coloring of the games switches mixed with my extreme fatigue started a flood of memories of the instances with my brother to emerge in my head. I fell to the ground holding my head, I could hear people talking but I couldn’t focus on what they were saying because of the images in my head that I had blocked out. I faintly heard myself say “no” and someone asking me if I was ok. I tried to say it was just a bad headache but I knew no one would believe that. We went home and I wrote a letter to the one person who I’m still friends with explaining what happened that night. I still couldn’t sleep at home and as the fatigue kept building, more and more memories emerged, until all 3 years were remembered. Then I started faintly remembering bits and pieces of the babysitter’s games. The mentally ill guy finally left my house when I told my dad it was me or him, but the damage had already been unleashed. To this day though, I cannot remember enough about the babysitter to pinpoint who he was or to say definitively what exactly happened. I’ve gone back and forth about whether to even believe my mind that it did happen. On the one hand, my mind could have made this guy up in order to give me someone to hate and be angry with, emotions I can’t feel toward my brother, on the other hand, I could be trying desperately to make this memory fake so I don’t have to deal with it and the emotions that stem from it. If I can convince myself it wasn’t real, I won’t have to deal with it. I guess I’ll never know if it’s just a fucked up illusion of my mind to project my feelings toward my brother onto a stranger’s face, or a real memory I’m trying to protect myself from by saying it’s fake.
Fast-forward through years of self-cutting to deal with the scary emotions all the way to my first adult sexual encounter. I was 21 and on a date with a guy I had met online. We went to dinner and a movie together and decided to go back to his place to make out. I was adamant that that was as far as I wanted to go. I told him I was a virgin and was not ready to give that up. (What I didn’t tell him that contributed to this was I was unshaven and on my period, not things that you want for your first time). While we were making out, he started to take off my shirt, I grabbed my shirt and pulled it down and he pried my fingers from the shirt and took it off. I realized that he was stronger than me and I felt a great deal of helplessness and weakness take over me. I didn’t know self-defense and he had driven me to his place, I had no clue where we were, so I had no way of getting a ride home even if I did escape him. I figured I was going to be raped one way or another, and I’d rather just be raped than raped and beaten, so while I continued to verbally say “no”, I stopped fighting back. Eventually, as he took away my virginity in the worst way possible, I had given up even verbally fighting back. What was the point anymore?
Four years later I had my first consensual sexual experience, with a guy I used for 3 months. He loved me, but I didn’t love him, I just loved that he let me be in control of the sex life. I made sure I made the first move on our first date so that I would have control from the beginning and I would play games of with-holding sex just to see if he would respect that. He did, and I continued to use him for it. I did break up with him after 3 months realizing I didn’t want a relationship at all with this guy, but later we became friends with benefits which allowed me to continue to use him without so much guilt.
Later, I moved, and I found myself allowing guys in gay bars to finger me on the dance floor and decided I needed to find a better outlet for my sexual urges, one not so dirty and one I could feel more in control about. So I went online. I turned down any guy seeming to be too pushy or any other trait I couldn’t control. That left me with very little to choose from. In walks in a cute, funny and smart guy who only wants to be friends with benefits. Perfect! Easier to control when you don’t have to play the dating game, but just to make sure, we met for a date at a coffee shop so I could evaluate if I would feel safe with him. It turned out to be a good and new experience for me, he was nervous because he actually cared whether or not he could please me! While my ex had never forced anything on me, he never made any special efforts for my pleasure and it gave me a chance to explore my sexuality in a new way while still feeling in control.
When he moved away, I decided that I was ready to start looking for something more serious. After all, I’m getting close to 30 and have never been in a serious relationship. So I went back online. Again, the pool that fit my standards was very small and only one guy fit well enough to date. But again, our first date, I made the first moves and we ended the date in the back of his car. I assumed he would be like most guys, having got what he wanted, he would stop calling, and had prepared myself by saying that’s all I wanted. I analyzed everything he said on the phone trying to see things that meant he didn’t want to be with me. But he kept calling, and kept talking to me. He knew something was not quite ok with me and he kept trying to get it out of me. I think he knew or at least suspected what had gone on in my past, but he never pushed until last night when I was crying to him even though I should have been angry not sad. I had a confrontation with my managers at the job I’m about to leave about the issues they need to fix or more workers will be following my lead, and they told me that these very valid complaints were just workers whining and they had no interest in fixing them (one was a complaint about racism toward clients and employees, another was about the unprofessional way problems are brought up at work in front of clients and employees and the other was about a worker who is friends with the managers not doing the work so everyone else has to do more work). Anyway, it caused me to cry because I couldn’t get angry with them. It was that same weak feeling I had while I was being raped. Even though I’ve been through counseling, this guy I’m seeing has a good point, that I obviously haven’t dealt with it enough if it’s affecting my ability to be able to stand up for myself in every aspect of my life. So I’ve decided that I’m going to work on it. I’m going to do exercises when I feel like crying inappropriately (obviously if I’m sad it’s ok) so that I can feel strong. I’m going to learn self-defense so I don’t have to worry about feeling vulnerable all the time, and I can finally get rid of my good-for-nothing user friends. I’m also going to give this guy a chance. He’s shown that he actually cares about my well-being and he’s willing to help me out in order to make it so that we can possibly have a healthy relationship, or if it doesn’t work out, that I can have a healthy relationship with someone else.