It was Love that brought me back. My love for my system, their love for me – I’m Saoirse 2.0 because of love. And yes, I am still working out what version 2.0 means. That’s a topic for another blog post.
My therapist said something that surprised me the other week. He mentioned “the L word”, and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. (Lesbian? lol) It seems that in a previous session, I had dissociated pretty heavily when the topic of love came around. I guess I dissociated so completely I don’t even remember the conversation. Hooray for dissociative amnesia.
Love is a very complex topic for us. All three of our abusers were people we loved. And, as screwed up as it seems, we STILL love them. In fact I almost didn’t post this because I thought, “what if one of them reads this and it really hurts their feelings?!”. Yeah, that’s messed up. Especially since one of them is dead. If THEY read this, that’s REALLY messed up.
One type of abuse that isn’t talked about much is emotional/psychological abuse. Somehow its considered “less than” sexual or physical abuse, a source of shame because it “wasn’t as bad as real abuse”. As someone who gets to tick off multiple kinds of abuse on the survey, I’m here to tell you that some of our deepest scars are from the emotionally abusive environment we grew up in. It can be just as bad.
While I don’t remember much of my home life growing up, I do remember my work life. I worked in my parent’s print shop growing up, from a very young age. One of the lessons there was “At home I’m your Dad. At work I’m your Boss, not your Dad.” And my Dad was the boss from hell. You could do a task exactly the way he described it and still be wrong. You’d get screamed at, things would get thrown or broken…. it was bad. And it was a very common experience. There was no way to win. And then “Boss Dad” could disappear and “Loving Dad” could appear away from work. Very confusing for a young child. Perhaps its not a shock that we developed me, a “work” alter.
I carry work-trauma. I remember getting screamed at that I was trying to poison my Dad, because I hadn’t thoroughly stirred the creamer into his coffee and there was a white spot on top. When I say there was no way to win, I seriously mean it. That happened at work. (I don’t remember home life much, but I’ve read that he would sometimes go on tirades because people were “stealing” from him. Little bit of paranoia in the abusive asshole mix?)
Anyway, even though that was going on, along with other Dad trauma, I still loved him, because, hey, he was my Dad, right? And sometimes he could be fun and loving, so the problem must be with me, right? After all, that’s what he said! And who is a kid to believe if not their parent?
It wasn’t until I was in college that I read a description of what emotional abuse was, and I recognized my day to day life. Yes, other bad shit happened to us growing up, but the emotional abuse was the most prevalent, as far as I know anyway. I still see the effects of it, even as I write this blog. The main reason I write instead of doing a YouTube channel, is that to this day, I have a lot of anxiety about talking. Saying more than a “Yes” or “No” to a question, or just talking on the phone, could lead to a seriously raging parent. It was safer to say nothing.
And yet, until we moved in December, we had a drawing our Dad had done hanging on our living room wall. Because yes, there is still love there.
Sexual abuse from someone you love is also hell. I’m lucky I don’t carry that shit, beyond the random ass flashbacks now and then. Talk about love getting twisted… Those really aren’t my stories to tell, though. While I’m OK with pointing out my Dad was emotionally abusive, we’re not ready to say who sexually abused us on a public blog. Probably because we’re programmed pretty deeply to keep the secret.
What I experienced growing up is that a person I love was constantly tearing me down, and I believed them. As an adult, the only romantic relationship we ever had ended badly (I came home from a work trip to find out she was sleeping with her ex when I was out of town). So yeah, love is a bit of a charged word.
I don’t love myself. I see all my faults, all my failures, and I’m my own worst critic. I may not persecute others in the system anymore, but I still manage to be extremely hard on myself. I carry a little of my Dad’s constant teardowns with me in my head. I’m never good enough. In fact, I’m always afraid I’m going to get fired, even as I win awards at work.
I do love my system, though. The only thing that gets me out of bed and to work many mornings is that I know I have to provide for them, and I want to take care of them. I even love Sharon, who I butt heads with on a semi-regular basis. 😉 I try to be a parental figure for my system – I’m essentially “system Dad”, even though I don’t identify as male. I care about “my children”, but expect nothing in return, because I don’t believe I deserve it. I didn’t expect that others in the system loved me and would miss me.
The only “outside person” I can comfortably say I love is my Mom, and even there I think we may have a little bit of a codependency thing going on. I love my step-Dad, but I’m still not that comfortable saying it. I love my ex- and all my abusers, too, but its definitely not a healthy thing. Do I understand how to love without all the baggage? Not really.
My ex-roommate likes to say ‘I love you” to me, and it always makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know if its just friendship love, or a hint of wanting something more. Either way, I never told her that I loved her back, and never explored the topic. I care about her, but love? I’m not sure I know how to do that, even on a friendship basis. I’m excited that she’ll be here for a visit in a few weeks, but I’m really anxious that she’ll say she loves me. I don’t know what to say in return. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but how do I explain that for us love is mixed up with some really messed up shit.
I’m going to have to stop exploring this topic for now, as I’m starting to dissociate.