Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Explaining mental illness: Abuse and trauma

This is the third post in my short series about my mental health problems. I strongly believe that mental health problems need to get out of the taboo zone. It is not shameful to talk about your mental health problems. It is not shameful to admit to having them. No one is perfect and being open about such matters is only a result of strength.
On the other hand, if mental health issues are neglected, they can escalate to enormous heights (or should I say depths?). There are many famous examples of this and still I feel that the majority of people can't see how important it is. I think they need to get out of the taboo zone, because they can not only affect someone in the most horrible way, but they can drag others with him, as I have shown in the example in my previous post.

One other famous example about mental health neglect and the misunderstanding about it is the tragic death of Robin Williams, a long term sufferer of depression, who managed to keep up his appearance as the 'friendly uncle' for years and years. Who know how he must have felt under that smiling mask and humorous acting? Nobody seemed to know much about his actual feelings and to the whole world his death came as a shock. People blamed him for it. I've read so many posts online that cut him down because in their opinion, all people who commit suicide are selfish and stupid. That is not true. People who commit suicide often see no way out. No way of ever leading a happy and carefree life. I have felt that way. Robin Williams must have felt that way. Because being happy should be a universal right of mankind. And someone who has made so many others happy and has made so many children laugh, including me, should have had the basic human right to be happy himself. And if that's not possible, he should have the basic human right to be open about it, and he should have the basic human right to receive treatment and respect and understanding and support from his loved ones, and from everyone who ever enjoyed his acting.

This is probably going to be the most difficult post for me to write since it is still so painful to me. However, this is where most of my depressive and anxiety issues come from so I thought it was necessary to write about it. I have already mentioned it in my older posts.
Abuse and trauma. Abuse is slowly gaining more awareness. Of course, the form of abuse that gets the most attention is sexual abuse (of which I've had my share too), but the form of abuse that's often overlooked because it is harder to recognize as such, is emotional and verbal abuse. I will try to talk about both in this post.

I have a history of trauma and abuse. Most of it was inflicted upon me unknowingly by several different people, which is why it is so hard to blame anyone for it. I will therefore refrain from calling names and I hope these people will not blame me for writing about it and I will try to talk about them in a positive way. There is one person who I don't think of as positive in any way (I won't mention his name either), and you'll find out why if you read on.

One of my earlier posts tells you about anxiety. Due to the abuse and trauma I have endured I suffer from anxiety. As I have told earlier I was never really understood at home because some family members could not understand ADD; and since we all didn't know I had it we could never really pinpoint exactly what was wrong and how to cope with it. Due to this misunderstanding of one another that escalated for years I eventually found myself to be in an abusive home where I did not feel safe and tried to avoid at all times.
As I said earlier, this abuse was unintentional and escalated gradually over the years, to the point that I feared my own home and secluded myself from my classmates at school, leading to years of emotional and social neglect and arrears.

Because I still desperately longed for understanding and attention in a positive way, or in a way, someone to hug and a shoulder to cry on, I started to fall desperately and obsessively in love with every guy who was nice to me. This not only led to the loss of some (potential) truly great friends (which I greatly regret; if anyone from my past reads this, I am sorry and would really like to meet again, as friends!), but it also lead to other, bad things. You see, due to the years of emotional abuse social neglect and the arrears I developed from them I was unable to see someone's true intentions because I thought that everyone who was nice to me was actually nice. And when I had obsessively fallen in love I was completely blind to any flaws. I would practically do anything for them. That's dangerous!
My first desperate love lasted two years and it was a really nice and kind guy, even though I knew I never had a chance with him. Even though it was very very sad it was also kind of good, because we were good friends at some point and I had some wonderful times with him. I'm still sad I don't really see him anymore as I would have liked to keep in touch with him but I hope he's happy now anyway.

Sometime later (I had never actually been out of love and had various unanswered loves and driven away good friends because of my obsessive behaviour) I met another guy when I had just turned 18. He seemed nice and was one of the few people I could draw and paint with. And he was sort of romantically interested in me, until I fell in love with him. We kissed a few times. His behaviour changed radically and he would be nice sometimes and super angry and verbally abusive at other times. His changing behaviour and the fact that I was so desperately obsessed with him took my depression to the deepest depth it had ever been, complete with suicidal thoughts, and one night when I was absolutely panicking, he told me over chat that the world would be better off if I killed myself. So I grabbed the first sharp object I could find in my room (fabric scissors) and started cutting my wrists in blind fear and panic. When the blood started to come out I passed out from hyperventilation, only to wake up sometime later, still in my room. The cuts weren't deep enough to inflict actual damage, but it was a turning point for me.
I blocked the guy everywhere and tried to get better, but it didn't really work out. I started going out. And it was a good distraction from being locked up in my room at all times. I started to feel a bit more confident but the years of ongoing emotional abuse at home and the unanswered loves had left me with a horrible separation anxiety. After about five months of going out and messing around without actually getting into a serious relationship, I found a nice guy. He was really nice and sweet and I was more or less happy with him. However, my separation anxiety still acted up, and even though I wasn't jealous I couldn't give him any personal space because I was too afraid to end up alone again, which eventually drove us away from one another, and he broke up after six months.
Stricken with grief I latched myself on the first new guy I could find to distract myself, and two weeks after the first relationship ended I already had another.

And here is where the (unintended) sexual abuse comes into the picture.
Again, I do not blame this guy. He didn't mean for it to happen in that way, and he didn't mean to cause me so much trauma. It was a misunderstanding, but one of such extent that my therapist has treated it as if it was actual rape.
You see, I kind of started to get to know myself. I knew about my tendency to fall desperately, obsessively and irrevocably in love, which is why I set myself some clear and distinct rules, especially concerning sex. I had promised myself I'd only have sex with someone if we could both honestly say we loved each other, and if we were in a relationship with one another.
We were together for about a year and he was a good distraction from my mental health problems. We joked and partied and had a lot of sex without really going into depth, not on both sides anyway. He, just like me, had issues he didn't want to talk about. And that kind of made our relationship less meaningful. I tried to talk about my issues and I put a lot of effort in him, biking 1 1/2 hours three times a week to see him, but as the months went by, he put less and less effort into me (or at least, that's what I felt, even though I didn't want to see it). We broke up for a week, then got back together, and on his birthday party shortly after we got back together, he got drunk and told one of his friends that he only liked me and made me believe he loved me because of the sex. He knew about my 'rules', and in my mind he would never say such a thing if he loved me and knew me, if only out of respect for the rules I had set for myself.
And because of that, I felt that what he said had to be true.

I broke my own rules, without knowing about it when it had actually happened. I felt as if I had been consequently raped for a year. I fell back into my depression again and didn't dare to touch anyone for months. An unexpected pat on the back by one of my colleagues resulted in a panic attack I could only just keep in. A hug from a friend could get me hyperventilating. It lasted for months, only until I met someone who could calm me down a bit and with whom I ended up in a 2.5 year long relationship.
It was years ago. I recently met up with him and talked about it and about the therapy I'd had (he'd gotten therapy as well), and it turned out to be a stupid drunk boast to avoid difficult questions about why we were back together. He didn't mean any of it and he would rather die than rape anyone.
And it's so stupid but I still have issues with it and I am still trying to deal with what happened, even though it was never actual rape and it has been nearly five years ago. I used to blame him for it but I don't anymore. I can't really blame anyone for it.

The only guy I can blame for deliberately taking part in my history of abuse is the one who talked me into committing suicide.

I am doing ok now. I have my own place and I have talked things out with my family and we understand each other now. I have a loving boyfriend but I do believe I can manage on my own if I didn't. But I do feel that the scars of the abuse will never truly go away. They made me who I am today and they have made me wise and strong, even though I still can't always deal with the consequences. I would not wish any of this to anyone.

I would again want to ask parents of children who are hitting puberty to listen to them and understand them from their own point of view as well as them trying to understand yours. Problematic behaviour doesn't come from out of nowhere. Yes, puberty is a difficult and trying time for both parents and children but only in a relationship of mutual trust and love, and not fear, you can truly help each other grow up. Don't assume that problematic behaviour is a result of laziness or inobedience but try to figure out what is really going on and find a solution for it or help your kid to find one himself.
This also counts for friendships, both in kids and adults. I try to be open about my feelings to my friends and my boyfriend but not everyone does. A relationship of mutual trust and understanding is a relationship where you can build from. Misunderstanding can lead to awful things if you neglect it, so always be open and honest to one another, and don't try to blame anyone or talk them down unless you have a really really good reason for it. It can be difficult to talk about your thoughts and feelings and be honest and open about them, but understanding and support is a huge step towards happiness of any kind.

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