Donning the mask

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I struggle for authenticity.   There is a yearning for wholeness, for acceptance of self, for cohesion within myself.  Despite this, shame has always driven me to compartmentalize areas of my life; to stay fractured, splintered.

Only 3 friends know about this blog.  Still fewer know my dad signed his parental rights away when I was one and a half.  Few people who know me are aware that I swear like a sailor despite me having a good command of lexicon at my disposal.   My eating disorder is only known by my immediate family and 2 close friends.   I can count on one hand who knows this abbreviated story I recount here,  the abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex.  No one knows I am a survivor of incest as a child, but my shrink, my dying mother, and my fiancé.

It is still hard to say that out loud,” Isurvivedincest,” even in a therapy session behind closed doors where no one can hear.

But how to synthesize these areas of my life?  Would people be accepting of the “real me” after years of putting on a veneer and hiding the ugly things that I am ashamed which happened to me?

Me trading authenticity for acceptance began in early childhood.  Often doing what other kids wanted to do even if I didn’t want to, afraid I might lose them and/or their friendship.  I became a people pleaser at a very young age. In a desperate attempt for love and affection which were denied all around me.  Instead of getting love, I received the abuse, exploitation, and humiliation.

As a victim of incest, the first lessons I learned was that my home was not a safe place, and that my body was not my own, and that I didn’t get to have a  “no”.

As early as kindergarten I recall feeling shame, it manifested in feeling ‘less then’ the other kids.   Anxious and unsettled and wanting to sit near the teacher hoping she might like me or show me some approval.

As I grew older and the sexual abuse intensified and more violence in my home occurred, an irrational belief sprouted that the ugliness inside me may be transparent. I began creating a false persona to hide my shame.  Hide my tears.  Hide my emotions. Hide my authentic self.   I had observed first-hand that the girls who were quiet and sullen or melancholy got made fun of, got devoured like shark meat ny the mean kids.  So I immediately suppressed my feelings under a fake happy,  sunny,  disposition.   I realized that with my persona operating, that  I could “pass” for normal.   I could have friends, connection, some sort of meaning in an otherwise desolate life.

Because my older siblings were all poly-substance users, I too began smoking marijuana at age 12.  Took my first drink of vodka by 13 years old and never looked back.   By high school I could drink most guys under the table and had alcohol poisoning once.  I was not deterred by this.  At this point I believed that I couldn’t let the “real me” come through, the fake me had been operating for so long.  I’d lose everything, I feared. Friends were the only positive thing I had in my life at that time and I was petrified to lose them.  Even if their friendship was built upon knowing me, a girl who was hiding the pathetic, sad, depressed, nothing-to-offer loser who hated herself underneath this joke-telling, witty, charismatic confident false girl they came to love.

Using booze and pot helped me turn down the volume of the authentic me deep inside me, screaming for relief and accelerate the fake persona that I was creating externally, that was happy and confident.  As I was fast approaching my high school years substance use was just I needed to survive all the sharks who would eat me up.

I don’t remember much of high school due to all the alcohol and marijuana use.  My parents divorced and our house was sold.  I found myself looking for a place to stay as neither parent was financially capable of absorbing me after I graduated.

I had never told either of my parents  about the incest.   As I entered my freshman year of college, my eating disorder was so severe that I had starved myself down to an emaciated state.  I couldn’t think or read very well as my mental functioning had declined from being malnourished.  For many months I was harming myself, also called self-mulilation.   I used self-injury to push back any feelings of intense emotion with which I couldn’t cope.   Then things changed and my feelings simply left.  My depression intensified and I just felt numb all the time.  Empty, cold, void of any emotion had become the new norm.  I had persistent and intrusive thoughts of suicide.   This dragged on for 6 months or more.  I figured I may as well be physically dead too.  Seemed logical to me.  Finally one night I decided to end my life.

First, I asked God to forgive me, and then I went ahead with it.   I guess God had other plans.  After getting discharged from the regular hospital,  I was sectioned involuntarily into a psychiatric hospital.   This was the first time in a long time any of what happened to me as a child would surface again in my consciousness.

I find it interesting that had I not attempted suicide at 19, I may have well have kept that mask on.   My authentic self may never have had the chance to be re-born.  My then therapist told me, “sometimes we have to have a complete and total breakdown, so we can put ourselves back together in a more healthy way.”

It has taken many years in therapy and I am still only able to let down my guard and become vulnerable to a few.  Happiness? Real long-standing  happiness? Still elusive I’m afraid.  I do find moments of real joy though.  I’m told I can learn to expand those and they can grow.  Self-love is the one thing I have yet to be able to achieve.  I have been working on learning to set boundaries and learning what it looks like to truly care about myself.  Imagine, having to be taught that.  Most of my life has been spent caring for others and I do that really well.   Historically, I give and give until I am emotionally drained or financially bankrupt.   The goal for me  is to learn to put myself first and not feel guilty for doing so.

Though I have always had the ability to love others and deeply empathize, I find it strange that both myself and my pathological narcissist both employed “masks” to hide our authentic selves.  Perhaps we have something in common after all.

 

Of Mice and Monsters VIII

The relationship had degraded so much and yet I did not know to extricate from it. Fear was a large factor keeping me in it, but also as hard as it is to understand for those who have never been involved with a pathological, I still had a faint hope that he would somehow return to the man I had initially met. The nice, sweet, charming, caring person who was attentive to me and hung on my every word. However, that man whom I fell in love with had fallen away. He was replaced with an empty, selfish, highly sadistic man who ignored my boundaries, was prone to give me silent treatments on a whim for reasons I was told to “figure out.” Every once in awhile that old nice version of him would return leading me to believe it was me that was the problem.  This “intermittent reinforcement” I would later find out, was done deliberately to keep me hooked in the relationship.  At times he even said to me that if I could just stop the (insert bad perceived behavior by him) or begin (insert a desired behavior which he had yet to see from me) than perhaps things could be the way they once were between us. Deep down though, I had a gut feeling he never had any intention of making good with the follow through.

Giving false hope is the devil’s work.

At some point I believe I had chalked up 12 bacterial vaginosis infections in the course of 5 years with him. Prior to knowing him I had never even had one my entire life. My gynecologist said they were sexually indicated but they could be acquired by other means such as swimming in ponds, douching, using tampons and not changing them often enough. Yet none of those applied to me. She made it clear it was not something one could get from a toilet seat. How did I get these infections? I couldn’t help thinking he must be having an affair.  My heart was sad thinking why wasn’t I ever good enough?

There were the middle of the night wake-ups where I’d find him gone out of bed. Only to find him using his phone in the bathroom sitting on the toilet seat checking his voicemail because he couldn’t sleep or so he said.  When questioned about it he would always deflect the question and blame me with an accusatory tone,” how dare you try and control what I do when I am having trouble sleeping!!!” Or that he was booking a doctors appointment. WTF? Are you kidding me.  You are booking a well visit with your primary care physician at 3:30 am?

There were lies.

That he was snow blowing for hours during the winter and couldn’t answer the phone , yet when I arrived I touched the snowblower and the entire machine was totally cold.  He never knew I did this.

Lies about going to his regular AA meeting but when I’d ask what the topic was, who chaired the meeting, or who the speaker was, he said he couldn’t remember. Anyone who is in recovery knows this is total BS unless you are drunk going to the meeting.   He was 26 years sober.

There were so many lies, so many inconsistencies, so many scary things that I had been fervently praying. Begging God to please remove him from my life. To please keep me safe and release me from this man. Day and night I prayed. Because for reasons unknown to me at the time, I could not seem to muster leaving him of my own free will.  Each time that I tried my heart would be overcome with a  sorrow so deep and painful, that I would do anything to avoid that level and degree of pain; including not leaving him.

Then my prayers were answered.

I was on his computer and had noticed a photo that hadn’t been there the week prior.  It was a photo of a naked woman lying on a table, with him wearing a green shirt on with his hand outstretched touching her genitals.

I asked him about it.  He claimed it was from years ago.   I knew it was a lie.   So I said, “All photos have time-stamps, right click on the image and show me it was years ago.”

He replied, “You don’t control me I’m not going to do that.”

I said,” this has nothing to do with control, if you can prove that this was done years ago just go ahead and right click on it and prove me that I’m wrong.”

He said, “get out.”

“Excuse me?”

Get your all your things together and get out , we are done, it’s over Lexi.

I told him, “I’ll be happy to get out if you want to be done , but just the same I want you to show me that the photo was from years ago, prove that I am wrong.”

“Just get out.”

My lip began to quiver and tears began to fall down my face as I begged him,”Please tell me the truth about that photo, I’ve been good this you for 5 years,  I loved you and I don’t deserve lies, please just tell me the truth.”!”

You want the truth?” He said.

Yes,” I whimpered.

“That photo was from when I went to a gang-bang the first year I was with you…….I am a sex addict.  I have gone on Craigslist hookups, done a fair share of swinging,  paid for prostitutes, and have a steady pool of friends with benefits that I have sex with, some that go back for many years,”  he said cooly.

I was shocked, replulsed, and terrified all at the same time.   They sat when you die your life flashes before you at rapid speed.   Well it was like that.  I kept thinking of all the sexual partners he had been with.  How many had there been?  Had I been infected with HIV and didn’t even know it?  My heart skipped a beat and my blood ran cold.

Before I could say anything he said,” you need to leave now Lexi, are you happy you got your truth?”

I carried my things to my car.   The cross on his kitchen wall for reasons unknown, slid upside down on the wall and inverted.  It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

As I walked out the door I felt mostly  numb as the tears had already dried on my face.  My thoughts still raced a mile a minute, though mostly consumed with one persistent thought, ‘how could I have been deceived by a man without a conscience.’

Why ILLICIT sex turns me on

World English Dictionary
illicit (ɪˈlɪsɪt)
adj
1. another word for illegal
2. not allowed or approved by common custom, rule, or standard: illicit sexual relations
For the purposes of this discussion I am using the latter definition.Why I ask myself?Why can’t I be “nice and normal?”  yanno.  Why couldn’t I  have been the girl who got asked out by some nice fellow and progress in a slow and steady-like fashion within a relationship?  Maybe wear his Varsity jacket and shit.  Hold hands and feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which is what I am really after in the first place.   Maybe get real edgy and sneak behind the bleachers and go to first or second base.  Then after a few weeks go parking at “the point” and maybe if I am really super daring, hit third base.   Somewhere in the future,  get engaged and then on my honeymoon have him pop my cherry? Oh fuck no.Because I am THAT girl.  You know the one that tells my date my entire fucking life story over a few drinks in under five minutes and then let’s him finger fuck me underneath the table at the restaurant, while telling him as he is doing this that I want to take things slow.

Or maybe I am dating some dude that is twenty years older than me, who wants to call him Daddy.  After a tongue lashing from me to him, on how unhealthy it is for me to call him Daddy and how it smacks of some incestuous overtones; I go climbing up on his lap, kissing him, cock teasing him, calling him Daddy while my body betrays me and gets wet and ready.

The weird thing is I really mean it.  Both things are true.  I mean, I am a walking talking fucking paradox.

I really DO want to be the girl who goes slow and I really want to stop this whole DADDY thing.

AND I also don’t.

But I keep doing it because it’s all I have ever known.  It’s familiar, safe, comfortable in some twisted maladaptive way.  But it comes at an awful painful, high high price tag for me.

Both parts of me are true simultaneously.  The part of me that craves it and the part of me that recoils from it.

At first I thought maybe when God was handing out brakes with men I must have been out sick.  Or maybe that I was born to like only illicit sex.  My recovery partners say that’s not the case.  I was too busy figuring out how to stay alive amidst trauma in childhood and adolescence and I never learned the boundaries needed to properly respond to men now as and adult.

Check.

So now what?

I think back to  Stanley Kubrick’s film, A Clockwork Orange.   If I’m wired to respond sexually in a maladaptive and deviant way for so long, what are the odds I can re-wire now?  What if I am damaged goods?  What if this is as good as it fucking gets?

What if I can’t ever be “normal”?

******

Someone either pass me the fucking antidepressants and coach me into taking the shit, or gimme the gun already.

It’s not looking so good over here.