Author:Paul Gilmartin

Sexuality and Being Bipolar: A Guest Blog by Jon Press

I posed the following question to several of my Bp buds: What impact has your bipolar diagnosis and treatment had on your sex life?

“Bipolar has influenced sexually addictive behaviors particularly around pornography and other online activities. When I’m manic, I’m impulsive. My inhibitions disappear and I make decisions that I later regret.  When I am depressed, I seek out sex to medicate the pain.”

“In periods of mania or hypomania, I find myself feeling extremely sexual. I have more energy and desire to pursue these means. This leads to more confidence, and well, more sex. However, the exact same applies when I experience a period of depression. I find that my sex drive diminishes significantly. I lack of confidence and a decreased sense of self-worth.”

“When I’m manic, I have a high sex drive. When I am depressed, I don’t even know what sex or being in the mood feels like.”

“The mania can obviously spark your sex drive and make it almost impossible to completely satisfy, which some women love. On the other hand though, the depression can totally kill it. For me, I’ve had problems in my past during bouts of depression where my ex’s have literally said, “You’re a guy, how could you possibly not want sex all the time?”

Medication: Sexual side effects

 

“Certain medications have impacted the functionality of all the fun….cough, cough. However, I have not noticed this side effect for all medications. In addition, fitness and exercise has been a huge part of my treatment, which has helped improve every aspect of my sex life.”

 

Many of us have had similar experiences ranging from delayed orgasm to erectile dysfunction. After much trial and error, the majority of us have found the right medication without intolerable sexual side effects.  However, if forced to choose between sexual satisfaction or mental/emotional stability (which is sometimes a life or death decision), we would opt for the latter.

 

Has your diagnosis and treatment had an impact on your sex life?

 

Jon Press is a husband, father, and coffee addict living in the Chicago suburbs.  He blogs regularly for Bp Magazine for Bipolar, www.bphope.com.

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Yes There is Such a Thing as Sex Addiction: A Guest Blog by Jess Levith

Denying Our Reality

A Response To The Recent Sex Addiction Study: “Sexual Desire Not Hypersexuality, Is Related To Neurophysiological Responses Elicited By Sexual Images”.

 

To Mr. Steele et al.,

My name is Jessica Levith and I’m an Intern Marriage and Family Therapist currently working with Sex and Love Addicted clients. I’ve also been humbly recovering for almost nine years from an addiction you’ve recently claimed doesn’t exist. I speak for only myself when I voice that your methodology and conclusion for this study was insufficient, deeply hurtful, and clinically dangerous.

Taking this extremely complex issue of sex addiction (which involves multiple levels of trauma, unhealthy attachment, sexuality, physiology, and self-concept), you extracted for testing only its most provocative, media-grabbing symptom of pornography. You had your subjects examine sexually provocative still photos and then tested their brain activity for addictive responses paralleling those of substance addicts. When no parallel showed up, you concluded that sex addiction must simply be a high level of sexual desire. I’m respectfully proposing, that your study may have excluded many other, potentially unaccounted for psychologically addictive factors contributing to your subjects’ sex addiction, including previous trauma(s), social conditioning, and internalized shame.

I’m wondering if you consulted with sex addicts before beginning this study, asking them what their most powerful triggers are. I’m wondering if testing those same 52 subjects from your study (86% of whom were heterosexual white males) for addictive responses to more person-specific events might have yielded a higher correlation. In my experience, what triggers one sex addict does not necessarily trigger another, even if they both happen to binge on pornography. Perhaps my idea might not provide great results either, but it would sure feel like a more comprehensive stab at this complicated issue. To deduce that all sex addiction is merely a high level of sexual desire, based on a single-faceted physiological study, without any reference to the psychologically-addicted mind, is denying the truth of myself and millions of people who’ve had to scrape our lives off the ground from this dis-ease. Additionally, it dangerously plays into the caricaturing of the sex addicts as insatiable studs or hungry perverts.

What I most fear is that your narrow criteria for what negates the existence of sex addiction will perpetuate the already dangerous myth that sex addiction is something a person can control if they just try hard enough. It tacks on an extra layer of shame for those already struggling to slow down their compulsive behavior. I realize it’s not your responsibility that blogs and other media have been headlining the more provocative snippets of your study, however, it’s important to clarify to the general public there are other potential ways to be addicted to sex (and love) besides physiologically.

Respectfully,

Jessica Levith

Jessica Levith provides psychotherapy for adults and young adults in the SF Bay Area.

www.east-baytherapy.com or www.eastbaysexandloveaddiction.comPhone: 510.883.3074        email: jesslevithma@gmail.com Tumbler: http://sexandloveaddiction.tumblr.com/                                      Twitter: jesslevithmfti

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Adrienne Selbert

Raised by attentive, loving parents she nevertheless grew up with a pervasive feeling of emptiness that she sought to soothe through relationships with men.   In her words she, “Burnt her life to the ground”, but used the experience and pain to grow.

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Sense of Smell Memories and Trauma: Guest Blog by L. Ruitzel

From the most terrifying moments to the most intimate, a scent can trigger a diverse emotional spectrum within our bodies and minds. Our memories, experiences, and the associations we attach to smells have the power to influence us for an entire lifetime, perhaps even beyond.  For me, the scent of Old Spice cologne has the power to evoke a longing and nurturing down to the marrow of my bones.  I wonder sometimes if it is the result of an unmet need, or the distant ghost of an actualized moment in my infancy.

 

Old Spice, original, was the cologne used by my father.  I do not know if my dad still wears Old Spice, and if he does I do not know if it would it still create longing within me.  My guess, or perhaps hope, is that it would not. My dad is not absent from my life, he is still alive and married to my mom, but our interactions are rare and often times loaded with emotional expectations that can’t be defined.  I was raised in a household with six siblings, our small 3 bedroom, 1 bath farmhouse had seven kids and two adults; personal space and respectful autonomy was severely limited.   My dad was a distant and abusive father through circumstance; he was overwhelmed by noise and chaos and had a strong need for control.  The stress of an impoverished, domestically violent marriage coupled with his emotionally void spectrum meant that he often retreated to his garage and was rarely parenting with any joy.  Most of his interactions were based on administering discipline; a punishment that was often released when the fuse inside him exploded and became uncontrollable.

 

I once asked my mom why she had so many children, when each birth created more stress and dysfunction, and her response was that my father was so gentle and loving when she was pregnant. Pregnancy was a way to feel: taken care of, nurtured and safe?  Perhaps a selfish and ironic thought process since every addition to the family meant fewer resources for any one member. I am the second oldest and learned quickly to navigate my childhood with as little noise and need as I could.  While I may not have understood the dynamics that were being played out between my parents, I did witness, with a certain consciousness, the violence and neglect escalate.  For the most part I didn’t question anything; my family was my reality.  But the unique violence that occurred between my dad and my brothers was something I always felt hopeless and angry about.

 

My brothers, Jon and Aaron, were children four and five in the birth order.  By that time, my mother had already started the “I want a divorce” rant and it seemed like life was full of threats; real and imagined.  Emotions were constantly spilling over between rage and grief. Resources were tight, tensions were high, tempers flared and things were falling apart, but somehow we stuck together. Whether through fear, stubbornness or religious ideals we still managed to present as a loving and resilient family.  However, one of the tragedies of our childhood was that my brothers gradually became the brunt of my dad’s criticism and rage.   They were “boys” and in that I think my dad unconsciously gave himself permission to be harder on them, to expect more from them and used them as an outlet to process his own, never identified, childhood abuse.

 

Have you ever told yourself, “I’m not going to be like my mom” or “I’m not going to be like my dad?” I think when families experience some internal combustion and pain it’s a common theme.  We all have a desire to be different than our harmful experiences.  My brother Jon was no exception, as a teenager he used to cry with me and repeat over and over, “I don’t want to be like dad.”  Jon was a very loving and sensitive kid, but he was also the epitome of masculinity.  He was physical and rugged, had dark looks and the strength of a warrior.  He would give and give from his heart, but was often wounded in non-reciprocity.  My dad used to beat him for normal childhood absent-mindedness, like leaving a hammer outside, but he was also beaten for Aaron’s behaviors. He was repeatedly told that being older made him responsible for Aaron’s actions as well. His world was filled with violence; violence against himself, his sisters and his mother whom he adored.  Jon’s world was chaos and he internalized that chaos into believing he was a failure and deserving of the abuse.  Perhaps he didn’t even know what he wanted, or how to experience it but I believe he knew in his soul it should be different.

 

There are two things that call to mind a certain fondness for my dad.  One is the smell of his pipe tobacco and the second is the smell of his cologne.  Despite not wanting be like our dad, Jon assumed both of these scents into his life.  As a teenager he adapted using the cologne into his grooming repertoire and by his early 20’s he picked up the pipe and used the same tobacco brand as my dad. I am often curious as to where the fondness for these smells come from. While I don’t actually have many conscious memories of loving behavior from my dad, somehow my psyche developed a positive relationship to these smells.  When I was a teenage girl I spent a period of time yearning for a father.  I longed for a figure that could exhibit what fatherly love looked and felt like. I didn’t know it at the time, would never have been able to put it into words, but I was trying to fill an emotional hole.  Whenever I caught the barest scent of Old Spice, I would stop, sniff and look around for the source.  Could this person be my father, could this person love me?  It was primal and unconscious but the smell turned me into a two year old, and as my sexuality bloomed, it turned whoever was wearing it into an attractive figure for my teenage desire. I wonder what this void looked like for my brother and how is it that we were attached to the same scents despite our gender and age differences.

 

Jon and I had the opportunity to live together when we were in our 20’s.  He was my best friend and quite honestly, I believe, my twin spirit.  I had no premonition that suicide was in his timeline. I still remember how I wish I had said, “I love you.” as I headed out for a soccer game that Sunday evening.  In the ninety minutes that I was gone, Jon altered the course of our family’s path.  It’s a moment that I grieve and cherish simultaneously.  It transformed me in the ways that are hardest to appreciate; the momentary destruction of my heart and soul. Before my brother’s death I was unable to see the depths of depression and abuse in our family history.  I just assumed that life was hard for everyone, that suicidal ideation was the normal thinking process for struggling humanity everywhere.  Since Jon’s passing I have had to process a lot of anger in feeling like he took away my ability to choose my existence.  Death was no longer an option; once you witness the grief and confusion of a suicide you hesitate to repeat the pattern, especially to the same family.  But in grief I felt even more stuck and hopeless.

 

I had created a distance of opportunity from my parents.  I didn’t consciously condemn or feel active anger towards them; I just didn’t feel inspired to cultivate a relationship beyond the Holiday family gatherings.  Regardless of that distance, regardless of the high level of denial in our family, I still had to call my parents and tell them that their son had taken his own life.  It was a role that still haunts me at times.  It was late, perhaps 10 p.m., and my parents arrived within the next couple of hours. I can’t even imagine the drive, the grief and guilt probably bearing down on them more and more with each passing mile. My dad arrived angry, upset with me that the first responders had released my brother’s body from his noose and taken him to the morgue before he had arrived. I recall a comment about how disrespectful I was that I didn’t let him “handle” his son’s death.

 

The week following my brother’s death seems like a blur, family invaded the house and lots of arrangements had to be made. I had two sisters in high school, a boarding school in California, and a sister in North Dakota with three kids, all whom had to be flown to Oregon.  We hunkered in as a family and shared tears and whiskey all the while questioning, what went wrong?  I’m sure there was confusion and grief for my parents, a sense of failing their children, of failing themselves, but the way anger and denial often manifest is with blame. So the defensiveness was erected right away, there’s no one to blame, and we did the best we could. I never really accepted that. Yes, I do believe, we all do the best we can, but you still have to take accountability for how you affect the lives of others, including your own children and the ones you love.

 

Sometimes my mom tries to get me to be compassionate for my dad.  She likes to tell me I am his “favorite”, the anomaly of both rough and tough and sensitive; a good mix of both genders perhaps. But I think that it is more likely that I am my dad’s biggest conscience check, that my aloofness and self-dependency is a challenge for him. I don’t conform, I don’t try and like him and sometimes I can even convince myself that I don’t care how he feels about me.  I certainly don’t strive for his approval or support. I had already been too hurt and some things can’t be undone, some words can’t be fully taken back.  The death of his son inspired my dad to find ‘his Truth’, to share the things that are on his heart in case he loses the opportunity.  On the Tuesday of that dark week my dad felt it in his best interest to tell me my “life is not a blessed life”.  I wasn’t really sure what he was saying at first, grief was so heavy on me; was he blaming me for Jon’s death? But then he clarified. There are two kinds of people who go to hell – those who commit suicide and those who live homosexual lifestyles.

Oh yeah, I’m transgender and live a lesbian lifestyle. My dad wanted to know; was all of it his fault?

 

It is now 7 years later and six months ago I finally moved out of the house where my brother died. While there is a world of difference between how my family and I lived back then and how we live now the grief of death never really goes away, it just evolves. I have multiple times removed my brothers’ possessions out of my space, dwindling down the mementos that can no longer capture his essence; my only true tribute to him now is a beanie hat that I wear year round.  Sometimes I feel like I can still smell him in the knit of the fabric.  We shared a lot of common outdoor activities together so every time I sit by a fire, talk a walk in the rain, or play in the snow I get a scent of his body, his hair, his blood pulsing with life.

 

But when you move, you find hidden treasures, or twisted reminders, depending on how you choose to categorize the past.  My nephew is now old enough to want to know if there are “things” of Uncle Jon’s that he can embody; a book, a backpack, a pair of shoes.  So I cleaned out the garage and went through the only two boxes remaining.  Is there anything worth still hanging onto?  Surprisingly I came across an old bottle of his cologne, Old Spice, the original. Not a bottle from the store that just smells the same, but the very bottle that he put his finger on and transferred this scent to his living body. A scent that connected him to his dad, our dad, and despite the violence, despite the injustice of his childhood, he still in some part embodied a longing for this fatherly love.

 

So I now wear my dead brother’s cologne.  It soothes me, reminds me of a happy and loving childhood, a father who was safe and gentle – even if I don’t actually have these memories. It reminds me to keep striving for a soft heart, one that will someday see my parents without a child’s neglected perspective.  I choose to feel nostalgic when I smell Old Spice, I choose to honor the path of longing my brother and I shared in the desire for safety and love. I choose to recognize the ways I can create them within my own future family.  Jon will be an uncle, a brother, a son that will forever be missed but his scent still lingers in our hearts.

 

 

I’ve kept my distance, done my healing, learned to accept my parents for who they are.  My dad has since found Eastern Orthodox religion with a passion, committed to working on forgiveness and acceptance. He is actually a kinder and more gentle man but not necessarily more expressive.  He is still incapable of saying “I love you”, even when it is said first and he merely has to agree. This year he asked me if I was all healed and over Jon’s death.  He shared that it doesn’t concern him anymore and he doesn’t understand why it is so hard on my mother and my sisters.  I told him that I am at peace with the situation and that I deal with my grief in my own ways but that every ones process is different. I’m still not able to be honest enough to say how ignorant he is.  My dad is confused by love and loss, unable to truly acknowledge that his behavior led strongly to my brother’s mental health, that there is much more accountability to be had in our family.  Neither of my parents will apologize at this time.  For they did the best they could and forgiving themselves of blame is the only way they survive.

 

L. Ruitzel lives in Portland

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I Couldn’t Say the “R” Word: A Guest Blog by Chelsea

Note: This piece gets a bit graphic about sexual assault, so if that is triggering, you might not want to read it. I know that for a long time, I could not read or hear anything graphic without being very triggered, so do what feels right to you.

After eight years, an inpatient psych hospital stay, four therapists, and tons of meds, it is still hard for me to say the “r” word in reference to what I experienced at the age of 18 in my second week of college. For many years, I just referred to it as “it” or “what happened at Holy Cross”. Never rape. Then I started being able to say I was assaulted, but still. Never rape. Because that couldn’t happen to me, right?
I was so unbelievably excited when a sophomore football player wanted me to come to a party with him. It was my second week of college and I had come from a very small, all girls Catholic High School. I had never gone to a “real” party or a date with a football player. I spent hours picking out my outfit and purposely wore a tight t-shirt that showed off my breasts. I was finishing my hair when he texted me to meet him at his dorm.
When I met up with him, he asked me to come back to his dorm room for a second so he could finish watching a movie before we went. He said his roommate wanted to come to the party and wanted to shower first. I didn’t think anything of it and followed him nervously.
When we got to his room, we sat on his bed and he showed me pictures of his family. The movie he was watching, Minority Report, was on in the background but I don’t think he looked at the TV for even a moment. I remember being touched that he was already showing me pictures of his mother. I asked him when his roommate would be done, and he avoided the question and kissed me. I was taken aback but willingly kissed him back.

He was by far the most attractive guy who had ever been interested in me, and I am ashamed to admit that was a stroke to my ego. The kissing quickly became aggressive and he put his hand on my left breast. I stopped kissing him and told him I wasn’t really ready for that just yet. He started to get more forceful, called me a slut, and said I was lying. Things quickly turned from the casual atmosphere of showing me family photos to a scary, painful experience.

He shoved me down on the floor and held me down with one hand while hiking up my skirt with the other and removing my underwear. I kept saying no and started bawling. But I didn’t scream, push back, or fight in any way.

I eventually stopped telling him no, but I couldn’t control my sobbing, which angered him even further. He assaulted me vaginally, and anally. When my vagina would not get wet, he began to swear and yell at me, and bit my nipples and did other things that I assume were meant to turn me on. When it didn’t work, he spit on my genital area and continued.

The anal sex was so very painful that I started crying out. He slapped me, and I stopped. I probably could have gotten him to stop by screaming more since we were in a populated dorm, but I didn’t.

When he was done, he threw the used condom in my face and told me to lick it. I did not. He then got up and left the room, to “rinse me off of him”. I am ashamed to admit that I did not leave. I remained there on the floor in a daze and was still there when he came back from the shower. This made him irate and it was at this point that I got dressed and left.

I stayed in a daze for three days, did not eat anything other than granola bars and did not leave my dorm room other than to pee.

My roommate got the RA involved and she eventually helped me to tell my story.

I called my mom, and she came down and took me to the hospital for a rape kit. Since I had not showered (lovely, I know), there was still some evidence left on me. Long story short, the state of Massachusetts believed they had a strong case and said they would press charges even without my testimony. I came back home for a week but my family wanted me to try and stay at the school.

I went back to school and met with the detective my first day back. My mom came along for emotional support but was not allowed in the room while I was being interviewed again. The detective grilled me about certain details, and for some reason I left feeling that she did not believe my story. Now I know that was just in my head, because she has contacted me several times since to let me know she did believe me, she just needed to get the details a defense attorney might eventually ask. I freaked out and begged her not to prosecute him; that I just wanted to move on with my life.

After dinner with my mom, she went back to Maine and I again holed up in my dorm room. Five days later, the pain became too great and I overdosed on pills. I spent a week in the hospital and then another week in the psych hospital.

When I came home, I slept around to an extent that still makes me sick. I slept with strangers, my best friend’s boyfriend; you name it.

I went to a local college but was floundering in every aspect of my life. Despite what the detective originally told me, he was not pursued by the state because I did refuse to testify. I still carry a lot of guilt about this, especially since my room mate and I kept in touch after I went home and she let me know that he had assaulted someone else. I often wonder if I could have prevented her being hurt, and I think I was selfish for not just going through with testifying if it came to that. Holy Cross did find him guilty in their disciplinary committee and he lost his football scholarship. He also was placed on academic suspension, though I do not know for how long. I do know that he played football again the next year.

A year after I came back home, I met my husband and seemingly turned my life around. I stopped sleeping around with multiple men, stopped using drugs, and obtained my master’s degree. But I continued to feel empty inside and was filled with such a deep sense of disgust and shame. I thought that I was probably wrong about being assaulted. I thought I probably had invited it and it was deserved.

I became pregnant with twins and gave birth to them in June. They make me so incredibly happy but I am still left with that nagging feeling of emptiness and self-hatred. Since I suddenly had my hands full, I found it difficult to focus on the t.v. because I couldn’t keep  my eyes on the screen.

I decided to start checking out podcasts, and stumbled across Mental Illness Happy Hour. I found I could concentrate on podcasts because I could take care of the babies without having to try and keep my eyes on the screen. I quickly became obsessed with Mental Illness Happy hour and began listening to all of the episodes in order. After about a week, I had a breakdown where I began sobbing and it truly hit me that I had been raped. I had not deserved it. After listening to so many other people express similar feelings of questioning their own role in being victimized, my mindset shifted. Thank you so much to Paul, the guests, and all of the listeners for helping me come to this realization and making me see that I was not a willing accomplice and did not deserve being attacked. As I write this, my self-hatred is telling me that I sound cliché and corny, but at this point I do not care. I will forever be grateful for stumbling across this podcast and how it brought me such an epiphany.

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Listener Tom Seiniger

The 22 year-old opens up about the guilt and anxiety of growing up feeling like it was his duty to keep his mother out of her depression, even though she was emotionally incestuous with him, how he finally rebelled, and the toll it has taken.

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Guest Blog: Forgiving My Abuser by Delinda Andrews

In 1997 I moved from Ohio to the Netherlands. It was the first time I had been completely away and free from my parents even though I was 25. This freedom had an unexpected consequence. I began having a difficult time dealing with all the anger I had suppressed for years. I had hidden so much abuse from such a young age, and hidden the feelings right along with everything else. Suddenly being out from under the control of my abuser, I no longer had to fear him. I no longer had to hide the anger, sadness, shame and disgust; I could go on and on. But not having to hide it brought it all to the surface and being in a foreign country, only knowing my husband. I did not have much choice of an outlet. One of my first steps was to tell my mother, this time she had no choice but to believe me, as my abuser admitted what I claimed was true. It was rough, and I was attempting it with no support other than my husband. Our open communication lasted a short while, and I requested to cease all emails and phone calls for a while, which ended up lasting over a year.

 

So I turned to the Internet.  At that time there were a great deal of websites dealing with sexual abuse, many with forums to interact with other survivors. I began posting to a couple of different forums. Each had its own personality or atmosphere, but at each forum, I was warmly welcomed and supported. No post ever went unanswered by some kind soul. It did help to talk about the abuse, to talk about my feelings, to hear that I was not alone with all that I was experiencing.

 

Of course, web forums alone were not enough to get me out of the deep depression into which I had sunk nor did it help me to leave the house. I began therapy; it was extremely awkward and clumsy. My therapist did not speak fluent English, nor was I fluent in Dutch. My husband, (who truly is the best husband to have ever and will ever exist on earth) went to every single therapy appointment with me to assist in translating.  Starting twice a week, then once a week for four years. My therapy did not deal so much directly with my feelings and experiences surrounding the abuse, as it did with just getting me to become a stable member of society. It helped with my depression and anxiety with anafranil and a tranquilizer which I cannot recall the name. But it also helped me to apply, get and keep a job, getting me out of the house and on a routine. Still, due to the language barrier, a lot was not being addressed.

 

So I continued with the survivor forums on the Internet, with the blessing of my therapist. I continued to read everything I could find about processing these feelings. I read books, The Courage to Heal and its accompanying workbook was out on my desk constantly.  I still felt something was missing, the words of support and encouragement began to feel a bit hollow and unsatisfying and I realized that while I was being heard and validated, I was not being heard and validated by the people I wanted, mainly my abuser and my mother.

 

It was then that I stumbled upon AReASON; the Association of REcovering Abuse Survivors & Offenders Network. While it had a lot in common with the websites I had been frequenting, it was different in one major way. Along with forums for survivors of abuse of all types, there was even a specific forum for male survivors only, as well as forums for partners and spouses.  But the biggest difference was the inclusion of a set of forums for Recovering Offenders and A Roundtable for Survivors and Recovering Offenders to interact.

 

At first, I just read, and not just the survivor and roundtable forums, but I also dipped into the recovering offenders forums. Since I had no idea what was going on with my own abuser, I thought this might shed some light and answer some of the questions I had. How could an adult take advantage of a child? How could an adult think that the child enjoyed the abuse?  Why did he do this to me? Just as every survivor’s story is different and unique to that person, there are similar feelings and experiences that most survivors have in common. I figured the same could hold true with recovering offenders. I read a post about a father who abused his daughter, confessed to his wife and was now facing a lengthy jail sentence, I read posts from someone who called himself a coach and was battling his inner demons, rape fantasies involving young males. There were many posts from men trying to understand how and why they had these urges and thoughts and how to control and deal with them. It was a lot to digest.

 

Eventually I felt comfortable enough to introduce myself and begin posting. At first I stuck to the survivor only forums, then moved out into the roundtable discussions. A lot of my first attempts at posts were support for other members, maybe a post about having a difficult day. But after awhile I was able to begin releasing some of the anger and betrayal I was feeling. I would project it out into the roundtable and not only survivors would respond, but recovering offenders would also hear, understand and even validate and own some of my anger as victim empathy. “I am so sorry you had to experience that” “Hearing your pain helps me to understand how my actions damaged my victim” etc

 

There came a shock when the site owner announced AReASON would be shutting down. I was not the only participant to feel panic. Thankfully, that wonderful man I married stepped in again and helped me to create a website we called Healing Together. We followed much the same format as AReASON in our forums and chat. And thanks to the help of the creator of AReASON, most if not all of the current participants found their way to Healing Together the day AReASON shut down.

 

Overtime I came to develop a couple of close friendships with two people on the forums. One, a fellow survivor turned me onto gaming. She sent me a copy of Everquest and I discovered the ability to escape completely into another world. Often for long periods of time, ignoring much of life outside of my computer screen. Therapy kicked in and helped me find equilibrium with that.

 

My other friendship was with a recovering offender with a past that mirrored my experiences in many ways. It was through my conversations with him that I developed a desire to invite my mother and abuser back into my life. He also helped me to see that my abuser was not just the monster that I grew up envisioning all those years. But he was a man with a sickness, which instead of controlling or seeking help for, he fed and acted upon. But he was not just that sickness, and perhaps he may have even been thankful that I came out with the truth.  Hiding those thoughts and actions feeds the sickness, making it more difficult to stop. Of course, these are my own conclusions based upon conversations with my friend. But it opened my mind up a bit to be able to include my abuser back into my life; at a great distance and in tiny increments at first.

 

I developed a great trust in my recovering offender friend. My husband and I took a vacation to the States and made arrangements to meet my friend and his wife in Utah. We spent a few days camping in the parks, hiking in Arches National Park, four wheeling in a Jeep in Moab. In the evenings, we would grill out, eat together then sit around the fire talking. I was completely comfortable around my new friends. His wife helped me to understand some of what my mother might be experiencing.  How it is possible to still love someone that has hurt your children in unimaginable ways.  How it is scary to face these accusations all alone. I was out of danger, on the road to healing. She was starting her journey toward healing and him toward recovery.

 

Sadly, we had to shut down Healing Together 10 years ago when we moved back to the States, and I have yet to find a similar web forum.

 

I can’t say that I realized this with such clarity at the time, but it helped me to continue on in my own healing journey. It helped me to accept my family back into my life. Now when I look back on those experiences, I realize how much it helped me to deal with my issues. The feelings and hurt that were not able to be addressed in therapy.

 

I now have a comfortable and dare I say healthy relationship with my entire family including my abuser.  I harbor no more secrets. I hold no more shame. And while at times, I do still deal with some anger, I can now say it to my abuser, and talk about it if that is what I choose.

Delinda Andrews can be reached at delindakay@tampabay.rr.com

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