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#462679 - 03/15/14 03:35 PM Lonely by association
mattheal Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 06/10/12
Posts: 142
Loc: Ohio
I was a lonely boy and my need for attention made me an easier target for abuse.

I got the chickenpox when I was ten and had to miss school for over a week. My mom was working the day shift at the time, so I was left to care for myself most of the day. While I was still a little scared to be left without an adult, I had already spent a lot time by myself and had worked through the worst part. I no longer spent the entire time alone crying and clutching our biggest kitchen knife waiting for the horror to come.

When I think back to that week, I struggle to remember my small itchy blistered body, but can be quickly overwhelmed by the intense feeling of loneliness that comes flooding back. By the end of that week I was calling 1-800-GET-COKE just to be able to talk with someone. That loneliness is just as much a scar as the one I still have on my upper lip from scratching that week.

I craved the attention of others before someone chose to abuse me, the years I was abused, and the years that follow.

So why is it that my go to coping mechanism when something is wrong or I'm feeling sad is isolation? I felt sad and wanted attention when I was alone. Is it just a matter of association - now when I feel sad for other reasons i retreat to the place I am used to feeling that way - being alone. This is a major issue for me, as I have someone who wants to give me attention, and I'm sure is frustrated by my retreats to isolation.

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this, as well as comments on similar associations you have identified, and what you are doing or have done to change them.
_________________________
It's okay to find the faith to saunter forward
With no fear of shadows spreading where you stand
And you'll breathe easier just knowing
that the worst is all behind you
And the waves that tossed the raft all night
have set you on dry land
- The Mountain Goats - "Never Quite Free"

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#462694 - 03/15/14 06:53 PM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3450
Loc: somewhere in Africa
hey, Matt, ol buddy! (and thanks for the kind words the other day. blush )

this is something i struggle with too:

Originally Posted By: mattheal
I craved the attention of others before someone chose to abuse me, the years I was abused, and the years that follow.


speaking from my own experience, i'd say that this loneliness created a need that led to the vulnerability that made abuse much more likely. so subconsciously, i think: "lonely = vulnerable + companionship = abuse." therefore i avoid companionship to avoid being abused/hurt. even though i crave friendship, it doesn't feel safe - especially if it seems to be going past the superficial level and careening dangerously toward emotional intimacy.

Originally Posted By: mattheal
So why is it that my go to coping mechanism when something is wrong or I'm feeling sad is isolation? I felt sad and wanted attention when I was alone. Is it just a matter of association - now when I feel sad for other reasons i retreat to the place I am used to feeling that way - being alone. This is a major issue for me, as I have someone who wants to give me attention, and I'm sure is frustrated by my retreats to isolation.


i know how to "do" isolation. i am familiar with it and it is a more comfortable default (and also easier!) than venturing into the unknown and uncharted waters. it could be association for you, but i'd bet it is more like an existing rut that it is difficult to steer out of to break a new path.

so - if it is a habit, it is hard to reprogram yourself to do something different - even if you know it is a good thing. i had to tackle it like any other habit. and i still have to actively and consciously resist the tendency to isolate. i take a chance and say something like - "i am feeling..." to someone i know is a likely ally. that usually starts the conversation rolling and i can go as far as i dare.

another tactic we use at our house is to post a chart of cartoon faces illustrating various emotions. (you can find them on the web.) ours is on the fridge and we have two little magnetic frames just big enough to surround one face. since we both mark our current status, it is not quite as scary to identify my feelings. that also leads to talk, etc. i give my significant other permission to gently explore with me.

i also fight the lure of going into another room by myself. i push myself to step outside my comfort zone. sometimes i share a journal entry. you can probly think of ways that would work for you.

does any of this sound likely or possible?
lee
_________________________
As my life goes on I believe somehow something's changed
Something deep inside...
I've been searchin so long to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning
Now I see myself as I am, feeling very free...
When my tears have come to an end I will understand
What I left behind: a part of me. Chicago


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#462696 - 03/15/14 08:00 PM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
Rustam Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 471
Loc: UK
Hi Matt

I identify very much with what you say. I learned to be ashamed of my needs because the adults around me did not respond to what I needed or were the cause of the misery. The child has no choice when their natural need for comfort and connection is not met but to bury or hide their needs, the needs themselves became shameful for me and when I am hurting in any way my default reaction is to withdraw, I am ashamed of how I feel. For example if like me you were made to feel ashamed for crying then if I cry that shame comes with the feeling so I don't want anyone to see me crying.

The abuse was the time I felt most terror, the abusers ignored or enjoyed my terror and distress and continued the abuse. If those feelings come back the default position to feel safe is to be alone due to the fear that another person will only add to the pain.

Thinking of you as a small hurting child all alone with chicken pox with a busy mum, who was not there to meet your need for comfort, you may have grown used to not getting the care that any child needs. When you feel in need of care it has grown more comfortable to isolate for fear that your needs will not be met. Your natural need for connection was exploited and betrayed by the abuser so the need for connection to another human becomes dangerous in itself.

I try and be kinder to myself saying things like it is okay to feel whatever I am feeling, feelings are neither right or wrong they just are. I am not really able to talk with my partner when I feel down/sad but we hold hands or stay close. There is great comfort in being able to have 'negative feelings' and not being alone.

I like your use of the cartoon faces Lee and the idea that the isolation is a learned habit that needs breaking.

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#462701 - 03/15/14 09:39 PM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
Jude Offline


Registered: 08/09/12
Posts: 1561
Loc: New England
Hey Matt,

Isolation was one of my key coping strategies to deal with the abuse. Isolation kept me safe from being hurt, and provided protection from anyone learning my terrible secrets.

Today I try to be aware of any tendancy toward isolating myself and when I begin to do so, thats a red flag that something is wrong. Something is making me feel vulnerable, threatened, or ashamed. Sometimes I can figure it out, sometimes I take it to therapy and get help figuring it out. But I do what I can to undo the isolation so i can have a life.

Be well,

Jude
_________________________
Everyday is a winding road
I get a little bit closer
Everyday is a faded sign
I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.
Sheryl Crow

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#462706 - 03/16/14 02:12 AM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
concerned_husky Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/29/12
Posts: 589
Matt,

I think you got it right when you said it was a matter of association. Someone should have been there to protect you and help you during those hard times - namely, your mother. You needed her love and support at the time the most, but she was unavailable and neglected you, seemingly (from what I know) because of both outside circumstances and her personality. That climate of cruelty, whether deliberate or not, hurts. Especially for a kid, it hurts bad. Really bad. Having experienced that, I guess retreating into your own shell and isolating yourself was a defense mechanism, to protect you from another layer of hurt: the layer of being vulnerable was bad enough, but it nobody responds, that's another layer. I pretty much agree with what Lee, Rustam and Jude have said already. If you isolate yourself, and prevent people from helping you, then you completely eradicate the possibility of being hurt yet again. I wish I had some answers to your question, but I'm not sure I do - I just know it's a hard cycle to break, especially when opening up and seeking help has ended up in (further) abuse. That is pretty toxic. I guess the simple solution would be to think really hard about who you can trust, and open up to them - let yourself be vulnerable, and let them help you, if anything to keep you company when you're feeling down. There are many on MS who are trustworthy; I think this place is probably the best place to start.
_________________________
Husky

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#462708 - 03/16/14 06:39 AM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 731
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Hi Matt,

This topic resonates powerfully with me. I've been a hermit for a number of years. So, I live in isolation. It's not my first choice. What I arrived at for myself was it wasn't my behavior I needed to change, but my thinking. My behavior was only a reflection of my thinking. For me, in isolation I enjoy a much more intimate connection with myself and have been able move through large layers of abuse and bring that abuse into the light.

My pattern for the last several years has been: going out into the world and involve myself in activity with others, move through a self-fulfilling prophecy of attracting abusive people and situations, having a meltdown and retreat to lick my wounds and learn from my experience, and then go out again.

The process has been slow. I read somewhere the universe moves from medium to slow. Most of my life has been spent racing--actually racing to escape. That was all my inner self knew. As I have continued to slow down I am moving at a pace where I experience my brain rewriting itself. The process is indirect, because the great damage was done to me when very young without much of a brain. However, periodically I experience my thought processes changing, and reflecting a reality based on healthy thinking and the possibility of personal choice.

My sense is we are all one of a kind. What works for me may not work for anyone else on the planet. That we all share some similarities on our journey is sad, but it also means we have understanding for each other and have the ability to offer love, compassion, and support to one another. I'm sending all these to you Matt in your search for what specifically works for you.

Don



Edited by don64 (03/16/14 06:41 AM)
Edit Reason: grammar
_________________________
Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

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#462888 - 03/20/14 10:03 AM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
CafeMan Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 151
Loc: Chicago
I think being alone is not only hiding from others, but hiding from one self. So when I told my family of my abuse, I couldn't hide anymore. Everyone rallied around me, so that was both good and bad. It was great that I received support. It was challenging because I couldn't hide and put the issue away. It was staring at me in the face 24/7. So for me, being alone, meant that I could escape and hide the pain away.

I am now at a place where, if I feel out of sorts, I can contact a member here anytime. I try not to discuss the pain with my family. The reason is when I talk to them, I see them relive the pain. I see the anger on their faces resurface all over again. So I am at a point where I can discuss an issue when needed with men who understand my issue at that particular moment.

I hope you are able to express yourself as best as you can, Matt.

Take care! -Nick

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#462995 - 03/22/14 11:43 PM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
ericc Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 01/04/08
Posts: 1970
Hi Matt,

When the memories surfaced for me, I went from being much more extroverted to much more introverted. I can honestly say I hated the isolation, but I had too much anxiety to otherwise deal and didn't know how to speak up about what I was going through. I have been opening up quit a lot lately, but also recognize there is part of me that will always sort of keep to himself. But I am working to let people in and no longer hide from life. I know the struggle and know the pain.

Eric

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#463044 - 03/23/14 07:47 PM Re: Lonely by association [Re: mattheal]
DavoSwim Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/06/13
Posts: 333
Loc: Iowa, USA
Matt

I too can understand your situation. I am most comfortable when alone, although at times I crave connections with others. One common thread in my life is wanting to matter. I justified the abuse in my mind because of the attention. Now, I retreat to isolation because there, I can't be hurt. Interacting with other people is what I would like to have, but the risk of being hurt again by opening myself up is too much to handle. Being alone is safe, and being safe outweighs the enjoyment I get from being with other people. Until I change what I want and what I'm willing to risk, I'm stuck alone.

Dave

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#463052 - 03/23/14 10:20 PM Re: Lonely by association [Re: DavoSwim]
KMCINVA Offline
Greeter
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1714
Matt

For almost 8 years I wanted to be alone. I lived in fear of the memories flooding my mind--for some people were able to bring the past to the present and to this day they believe these actions and acts do not destroy people especially those harboring a deep dark secret of CSA. I could hear their laugh as I retrenched to a place I really do not know. I was alone but did not know where I was. There were times when I was alone and had peace, no fear and I could feel I was here. But today I enjoy being with others, I do not live in fear, scared to return home and do not dwell on those who have hurt me and unraveled my life. But I will always wish them the best in life.

I have learned holding onto the past, the abuse, grudges and hurtful acts by others will only prevent me from moving forward. For some I will always love them but I love myself--and need to protect myself. I have surrounded myself with good people, I have learned to step away from those who consistently attack and make fun of others, I have learned most people are good and now like to see the good in others. Changing how I think has allowed me to connect with kind, good and happy people. I have a special friend who bridges all aspects of my life. She keeps me grounded and involves me in life. She always makes me feel safe.

I felt alone for so long as I tried to heal while some tried to prevent me from healing. Loneliness is difficult and does not help us feel valuable and worthwhile. Being involved, loved, respected and not living in fear of entering your home makes life worth living. I feel safe with people and now know I can step away and not subject myself to words and acts that make me feel unsafe. Realizing this, I no longer need to feel alone. Please do not let safety hold you back from living and being with others because most people will make you feel safe. Step away from those that do not make you feel safe. You deserve to enjoy life.


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