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Slightly Broken: Awake and Tense

I find myself awake in the early hours of Monday morning, a burning knot of tension in my stomach -well, not my stomach, but that odd place in our abdomen where we somehow transmit emotional stress into a muscular churning. It’s a curious and deeply unpleasant sensation. Believe it or not, I used to be unable to distinguish it from simple hunger, and at one time I think I could reduce that tension simply by filling up. I think eating something actually just distracted me, so was a good in itself as I’m a devil for skipping meals when left to my own devices.

This is lovely prevarication. It has been far too long since I’ve sat myself down to write something self-indulgent, despite really needing to. The fact that I am wide awake and really ought to be asleep seems to be as good a reason as any to return to the self-analytic fold. I can guess at my reluctance to write and think about myself – a lot of it is related to my decision to self-refer to ISAS (Incest and Sexual Abuse Survivors) which has itself generated a lot of stress. I’d finally managed to get myself to call them (I’d chosen to make contact myself rather than let my Brain Lady do so – on the basis that I needed to make decisions for myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have demonstrated to myself that I wanted to…) but I didn’t get a call back when I’d left a message. That cut pretty deep – deeper than I’d anticipated. I hadn’t even poured my heart out and already I’d been rejected.

Of course, that’s just me swimming in the self-pitying waters of egotism. ISAS are appallingly busy. And that kind of makes it worse for me. I usually say of myself, and of what happened to me that it wasn’t really that bad – I wasn’t beaten, violated repeatedly, enslaved, destroyed – y’know, it could all have been so much worse. So who am I to take up time that others need? I’ve no doubt that there are much more damaged folk out there whose needs are greater. But this is minimisation, and an excellent avoidance strategy. It’s one that keeps coming back to me – I accept that what happened to me happened, and I pretend that is all there is to it. However, here I am again at one in the morning, a bundle of tense nerves and a powerful desire to draw my own blood.

So I’m not fine. I do need help. Of some kind, of some sort. I have drawn a temporary compromise with self-harm I believe. It’s something I have to resist – because it’s easy. And addictive. And maybe because I don’t know what its purpose is. There’s a distraction there and a seizing of control – but it’s false. What fucking use is carving a groove out of myself? Or burning my hands in near boiling water – that’s a good one. It vibrates all down the nerves and flips from awful pain into a glowing pleasure and warmth. It’s a peculiar temptation. Right now I’ve settled for the vastly more mundane glass of water and some co-codamol. I realise that sounds a bit odd, but in twenty minutes or so it will have taken the edge off my tension. Yep, that’s a drug addiction to resist as well. Sigh.

What’s brought this lot on eh? I reckon it’s a bunch of stuff – I’ll just list them, because despite my general habits as a story teller and improviser I’ve totally shagged up any narrative here so far. Y’know, I’m in the mood for bullet points. Sorry.

1) I got myself to make a second phone call to ISAS the week before last. It was really difficult to call a second time, but I made myself do it at work, at lunchtime. Somehow that seemed optimum… I called, I left another message. They said they had a long waiting list and it might be weeks, even months before someone called me back. I felt worse. I felt better – there was every reason to think I had not been forgotten and I could possibly be assured of weeks before I had to do anything decisive.

They called me back the next day. It was a shock. I was just heading out for lunch and standing in the bike sheds answering  a string of the usual sort of questions asked in the most gloriously matter of fact way. You see, despite my knowledge that being abused doesn’t make me special, and I’m very aware of how widespread this crap is, I still clearly feel that I am special and that somehow these questions ought to be asked in some esoterically gentle and obtuse way (so yeah, I do need help). I powered down my obfuscation circuits and seized the first possible date the nice lady offered me for an initial assessment. That’s this Wednesday.

2) Work is a mess. I’m a drifter by nature and have drifted into a decent enough job purely by chance and avoiding any serious decisions. In fact the prospect of making decisions often fills me with dread. I seem pretty decisive to others, but I think that’s just because I’m clear and speak forcefully – good trick. But it’s a frustrating workplace where I do very much enjoy the company of my immediate co-workers but the organisation itself is packed full of twattery and self-destructive irrationality. All that with the looming spectre of massive budget cuts and privatisation (oh and an utter obeisance to some appalling management consultants who are beyond doubt the worst kind of lying blood-sucking homeopathic-efficiency pushing scum you can imagine). Makes for a stressful environment sometimes.

3) A couple of bad – well not bad, just disappointing improv shows over the weekend. I know that I hang too much on them personally. There are few things more satisfying than getting on stage and doing clever and silly things for the appreciation of strangers and your peers. So when it doesn’t work out that way it’s quite crushing. I certainly rely on the lift that it gives me. I’m afraid of not being good enough, and envy the skills of those who are better at it. At the same time I hold myself back from investing the time and energy I’d really like to – just because (I think) I’m afraid of failing further at it. I find it hard to imagine myself taking the risks one of my friends does in pursuing it. I suppose I’ve trapped myself with my work and making enough time to do things I love becomes difficult. There’s also a lot of stress with one individual in the group who just is not gelling and is causing, I think unintentionally but with a terrifying lack of self-awareness, a lot of dissatisfaction and frustration for me and many others. I have so far failed to find a way to resolve this. I think I have some stress because I have a bunch of work to do for a show in three weeks time and this weekend has given me an unhelpful slap in the confidence gland. That makes it harder to then do that preparation. Stupid self-destructive impulses.

4) I’m coming up to my thirty-fourth birthday (this Sunday) and I’m filled with a dreadful apathy about it. My girlfriend, The Lady M wants to make sure I get everything I want and am happy, but I’m just worn down and don’t know if I want anything. I don’t wish to disappoint her and I don’t want to disappoint myself either. I know that if I did nothing I would feel I’d utterly cheated myself of the things I love – opening presents, affection, the company of friends and rambling conversations. And yet it feels so hard to plan. So hard to consider the future even a week from now.

5) Two days before that is a much more important occasion – I will have spent fourteen years of my life with The Lady M. I don’t want to pretend that they haven’t been tough at times for both of us- they have been. We’re both fucked up in our own charming ways. I love her though, she’s a part of me. And I’m utterly ashamed that I’m also finding it near impossible to look even these four days ahead to spend time with her. I’ve gone as far as taking the day off work and planning the card to make for her (we always make each other birthday, Valentines and anniversary cards), but I just feel like a failure. I feel like I don’t give her enough and that feeling just makes me back away more, which is the last thing I want to do. If I could just be with her all the time and rediscover those fun, free parts of myself. Where the fuck have they gone?

6) The weekend before last (after getting an appointment with ISAS) was my little brother’s stag party. I can’t believe he’s thirty – that means I’ve done almost literally fuck all for the last decade. Anyway we’ll try to skip a little self-pity if possible. I spent most of the weekend with my Dad – three hours or so each way and we had a hotel room together (we’re both too old for six to a room and shots till dawn!). It’s more time than we’ve spent together since I left home and it was quite wonderful. Dad makes me feel incredibly sane because he’s so damn calm and supportive. I’ve always kept Dad more or less in the loop with where I’m at mentally and emotionally and I knew we’d be talking about all sorts of stuff in the car. And we did. We got very deep into stuff indeed. It’s this point six that I suppose is bothering me the most – let’s get away from the bullet points.

I can’t hope to recall the whole conversation but I think what disturbed me most, and disturbed Dad most was me realising that I still don’t know how I feel about myself, and about my abuser. I have no illusions about what actually happened, that I was exploited and preyed upon, influenced and used. But I am confused about the man himself. This is a guy who was a close friend of my Dad’s, very much a trusted intimate with whom much of life was shared. He was (I thought), a good friend of mine, someone who took an interest in my life at a time when I was vulnerable and badly needed a friend. He got me into improv (an endless headfuck for me – the thing I love doing most inextricably linked with someone who caused me to cut holes in myself), into films I would never have seen; made me happy and less lonely. Did the same for my Dad and step-mum.

Except when he was trying to touch me, when he’d let me get drunk and stay in his house. I was a physically very tense teenager (I’m a fairly tense adult; I just hide it really well) so a friendly massage made a kind of sense (no, I’m well aware that makes no kind of sense), and if hands just happen to drift well… that must just be an accident right? It won’t happen next time, probably. Oh, well, I’ll just drink some more and it won’t be so bad. It’s the realisation that you’re completely in someone else’s power and that’s why you -why I found myself doing things I would never even contemplate. Who lets an adult watch you in the bath or “help” you towel dry afterwards? Jesus fuck, these aren’t even things I’ve specifically thought about for years. But the dread, the scar of remembrance lurks in me always. But the thing I struggle to reconcile – the bit I don’t get and the part I had difficulty even expressing to Dad is: what was real?

I don’t mean that I fear I’ve made this up, that it’s some messed up “repressed memory”, I’ve got my diaries from the time and the scars to remove any of that occasional creeping doubt. No – I mean… this guy made me happy so much of the time, he was a good friend. Except for that other stuff. You see? It just doesn’t hang together for me – the good friend of the family and the sexual predator… How do we reconcile that? What of it was a lie? Was he ever my friend, my Dad’s? Or was it always just tactical? But all that effort, all that time – years of building and maintaining relationships just to fondle some teenage boy? Seriously – what the fuck? I just can’t grasp it. I just cannot understand how you can be bothered to do all that just for – well, something that I don’t consider to be of value I suppose. And maybe that’s the point. It’s certainly the point that Dad struggles with – that betrayal of his trust and friendship too. But these people are monsters. They are prepared to invest this huge amount of time in a long confidence trick – fake lives just to get close to vulnerable kids.

I don’t know how that makes me feel. I fear that he could have made me like him. That in the right(/wrong) circumstances I could find myself doing the same things that were done to me. I’d rather die. My Dad was horrified by that idea. He had a lot to say about that (I love my Dad) and he’s right I think: it’s possible to overthink this stuff. I have never had even an inkling of a desire to touch kids – I’ve had the opportunity in spades and I’ve never wanted to do anything; the idea makes me sick. I think what is in my head is a distorted notion – to take on from what was done to me some sense of sympathy with my abuser, that maybe he was a victim too and that this cycle might repeat. Because then he wouldn’t be just a monster – he’d be a victim too, and the good things he did, the friendship – well that could be real, and it wouldn’t all be a lie.

Yeah – that’s where I am in the head. Trying to convince myself that I might also molest kids because then it would mean that the good times I do remember between the bad weren’t lies and I can be allowed to take happiness and good memories from them. Because to me, if it was all a ploy, all a long con to abuse a teenage boy then it was all a lie. And none of it was true. So how can I do something I think I enjoy when it came from him? Fucking cunt. I’m not a great person, I try (sometimes) to be better than I am, but I don’t deserve to have this sort of bullshit in my head – no one does. I don’t know where this leaves me. I still don’t know how I feel. I am though convinced that I do still need help. Guess Wednesday’s going to be painful.

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