Being and feeling isolated is a common theme for anyone who is a little different from the norm. Especially people with mental health issues or from the LGBTQ+ community can experience this. As I tick both those boxes and I also am a single parent and a student studying from home it is extra difficult to connect and interact with other adults.
As a child experiencing and witnessing domestic violence I also felt extremely alone. But not just alone, I felt alienated, expelled and rejected from society. I could never find a safe and comfortable place anywhere where I felt included and accepted. I didn’t have friends, not real friends anyway. I was bullied. No wonder I felt suicidal and desperate to be accepted the way I was. I was desperate for touch, for love, for friendship, for comfort but off course because of that I was vulnerable. Predators were out looking for adolescents like me, even as an adult. So I got raped and abused again and again until I decided a few years ago, no more.
I isolated myself, and deliberately retracted from social interaction out of pure self preservation. I was so afraid of being abused again, and also that I would lash out and hurt another person that I just worked, slept and ate and that was pretty much all. But even that didn’t fully protect me. I was also worried for my children, I wanted most of all to protect them from any further harm. To me, the only way was not to get into another relationship and not having friends. But this meant that I got completely stuck in more than one sense. I found that I couldn’t keep a job, I kept getting into trouble in one way or another and got sacked. I worked extremely long hours, 45 hours a week plus, and the jobs I did were always precarious through agencies. This meant that I hardly had time with my children, only about 2 hours a day, and they suffered emotionally. My chronic backpain got gradually worse and worse, my mental health was in decline. The situation got untenable.
But how to get out of it? How to improve? How to change? What to change? I had and still have not much of an idea. I stopped working, simply because I couldn’t carry on physically and mentally. I started looking for help. I got help from my daughter’s school, and from social services. Then I asked my GP and mental health team to re-assess me. They gave me different and additional medication and put me in a ‘skills group’. This got the ball rolling. I started to look after my physical health. I started to think. I started to talk. And now, I am on my way although I still don’t know exactly how I can get better. I still have no real friends that I talk to. I don’t talk about what I find difficult, when I struggle, when I really don’t feel well.
I am sorry if you read this and consider yourself my friend. I am not intentionally rude or out to upset you. But the problem is, I don’t know what a real friend is. I think a real friend is someone you can be vulnerable with, who you tell difficult stuff to, and who offers you safety and comfort. Someone who shows you respect, and who you show respect to. And that is the problem. I don’t allow myself to engage with someone in that way, because I feel I can’t risk it. I struggle to communicate my boundaries, and to stick to my boundaries. I am basically too nice. I make excuses why I shouldn’t stick to my boundaries, probably because it feels like I demand too much of someone, and I am not worth it.
I think that is what lies at the basis of this; the overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. I know that to overcome that, I have to set boundaries and stick to them, because only then you will get self respect and value. A friendship can not be real without value. And a friendship only has value when both participants respect each other’s boundaries, and give as much as they take.
People with EUPD (Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder, formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder) keep others at arms length whilst demanding them to stay close. So I have a strong feeling of wanting to be near someone, even to the point of being needy, and at the same time keeping that person at arms length and pushing them away. That can be extremely distressing for both parties. It is impossible. Still, I think there is hope. I think I can improve, with practise and careful management.
One thing which would be very good is by aiming for a L.A.T. relationship (Living Apart Together). And then also an important ingredient is patience, taking it slow, one step at a time. I think what I described before, setting boundaries and sticking to them is probably one of the first things to do. It is also extremely difficult. Because if I really like someone, I so desperately want to go all in, but I really shouldn’t. I know this won’t end well. Another symptom of EUPD is being impulsive and engaging in risky behaviour like promiscuous sexual contacts. And all this behaviour whilst absolutely starved from intimate social contact is a recipe for disaster.
But the biggest problem I feel is that I am irresistibly attracted to unhealthy people, and even toxic people. No. 1 is alcoholics. I can’t allow myself to engage with any of those, but how do I get attracted to other people? I honestly don’t know. If they are not alcoholics, they are either addicted to something else or have similar experiences as I have eg. abuse, neglect and abandonment, or have been adopted like my sister. In short, they have been traumatised somehow. But maybe I should just accept that as an inevitable factor and try to work towards engaging healthily with those people. I am hoping that my study (Criminology & Psychology) will help get answers to these issues, as well as my weekly sessions with a councillor. If you read this and you have suggestions for me, please get in touch!
As a severely emotionally damaged person, it is hard to get my head around the concept of love. I only know dysfunctional love, which in my book is no love at all. When I was thinking about this I could come up with two essential ingredients; trust and equal distribution of power.
To start with the latter, to establish equal distribution of power between 2 people they both need to be self-aware of their personal boundaries and immediately communicate to the other person when they approach a boundary, and off course when they cross it. Being self-aware is one thing, but then to communicate it in an assertive, but not aggressive way is much harder. It becomes even more complicated when you take into account that people are naturally lazy, I mean they usually choose the way of least resistance. So over time, people just can’t be asked and give in just to get some peace. But off course, this is totally counter-productive because from that point on the relationship will go out of canter, power wise. One person will start to dominate the other and if not corrected by both parties the relationship will become dysfunctional.
Another factor is behaviour patterns and habits which become more and more engrained over time. So when you struggle to stand up for yourself and have low self-esteem a pattern of behaviour can develop out of self preservation. For instance avoidance. So your partner is approaching your boundary, you give a warning, they ignore and step over your boundary and violate your space in some way. You don’t address the violation and ignore that it ever happened. Next time you don’t even give a warning, you allow your partner to cross the line unchallenged but you see it coming and you avoid the situation. This then becomes your survival technique. But the consequences of this behaviour is that the whole relationship is based on a lie, because you have not addressed your true feelings of being violated and your partner hasn’t checked if they have crossed your boundaries. When this becomes a pattern the relationship will develop in a dysfunctional way.
Then the issue of trust. For love to blossom there needs to be trust between two people. This also is hard work. One needs to trust the other, and the other needs to respect the trust one has entrusted onto him. This is a constant interaction between the couple. Both people need to be absolutely honest about their feelings and actions, and communicate this assertively. The problem is, if your trust has been violated from the start, by your own parents or carers you don’t trust anyone and you start to develop self-preservation type behaviour and patterns.
Now I have come as far as realising all this, and I acknowledge that my dysfunctional behaviour is for starters that I avoid having to be vulnerable. Being able to show vulnerability is important to gain trust. But I have learned as a child that when you show vulnerability you will get abused, killed, beaten. You don’t get trust. Because I was part of a dysfunctional family. So when I became an adult I was always attracted to manipulative, emotionally unavailable, needy and violent men. I always liked someone who needed ‘saving’, ‘rescuing’ or care in some way. Like alcoholics, drug users, people like that. But as soon as someone wanted to look after me, I was gone. I just felt so uncomfortable, it just never felt right. But then, as a child I have always had the role of parent. Parent to my mother, parent to my sister, parent to myself. When you are emotionally neglected as a child, this is how you develop. It is pure self-preservation.
Now though, I’m through with that. I don’t want to have that in my life. I want the real thing or be alone. But unfortunately if I want to break this pattern, I will have to show my vulnerable side, communicate my boundaries on time and accept care and attention. This notion scares the heebie-jeebies out of me, but I will have to find a way to do it, and test it out. So that’s where I am at. Wish me luck!
When you grow up having to take up the role of parent as a child, it instils this belief that you always have to care for others and forget about your own needs. But also, being emotionally neglected you have this gaping hole inside you that needs to be filled with love. Anything will do.
As you only have an abusive mother and a largely absent father who doesn’t defend his children against her as a role-model, this is who you will look for in a partner as an adult. My father basically was my mother’s enabler. He made sure by backing her that she could continue to abuse my sister and neglect me.
And low and behold, this is exactly what happened when I started to become a woman. I was attracted to alcoholics, drug addicts and aggressive, emotionally unavailable manipulative men. The three longest lasting and substantial relationships I had all ticked at least one of those boxes and my ex-husband ticked them all.
But going back to those significant relationships, I wanted to explicitly talk about the alcoholic roundabout. When you have an alcoholic, you also have in his or her vicinity an enabler. This person can be anyone who essentially is used by the alcoholic to keep drinking and to cover up any consequences of the drinking. So the roundabout works like this:
Alcoholic spends all his/her money on alcohol. So he needs more and asks the enabler and lies about what he needs the money for. The enabler gives in to his pleas because she worries he’ll leave if she doesn’t. He becomes so drunk he misses work repeatedly and starts to come to work drunk. He hides his bottles everywhere so he can have a drink in peace and people don’t notice it at first. He denies no matter what that he is drunk or has been drinking. His enabler starts getting upset because the alcoholic doesn’t turn up for appointments and important occasions, or he turns up absolutely shitfaced, and he lies about everything. At work he doesn’t turn up, or is late and he gets suspended. His enabler talks to his boss and makes up excuses. He can come back.
So this is the roundabout of alcoholics, and the enabler is trapped in this vicious cycle of helping him stay addicted and making excuses for him so everything can stay the way it is, and most importantly, he won’t leave. The enabler is becoming more and more dependent on the alcoholic, it is a co-dependent relationship. She is terrified he will leave if she doesn’t give in to what he wants, and he needs her to cover up the consequences of his drinking and supplying the means to keep drinking.
Because the alcoholic lies about everything and always denies his drinking he turns it around to the enabler, so she starts thinking it is her fault, she is the reason he drinks and all the situations that are consequences of his drinking are her fault also. Her confidence disappears. She thinks she’s going mad, and eventually she does.
If you recognise yourself or someone you know in this, please look for help. An organisation which did help me was Alanon, for family and friends of alcoholics. They adopt the same program to recovery as the AA does for alcoholics.
In my 46 years I have encountered and experienced a lot of domestic violence and sexual abuse. As a child by my parents and later by men, who often called themselves ‘friends’ or ‘boyfriends’ and later ‘partner’ and ‘husband’. I don’t want you to think as me as a victim, because I haven’t always turned the other cheek, I fought back, I tried to defend myself and my kids and I know I have hurt some people who never deserved it.
And, eventually I became myself a perpetrator. Yes, unfortunately I have hurt others, including my children. I have to own up to that, and I am ashamed and I have felt very guilty for a long time. But fortunately, I have looked and found help. In my case Social Services have really helped me, probably because I was so self aware, and willing to look critically at my own actions and in-actions. Also, I decided if there was anything I would do right in my parenting it was going to be protecting my kids.
My parents have always put their relationship with each other over us children, and have never stopped the abuse, called Social Services or the police. I have vowed to myself and my children that I will never do that. Their welfare comes before my own, although I am aware I need to look after myself first, before I can look after them properly. That sounds contradictory but really, it isn’t.
I’ll give you an example: a year ago I started to notice my mental health was really going down hill. I felt exhausted, depressed and I started to experience psychotic symptoms. I also had an excruciating pain in my neck, shoulders and lower back that didn’t go away. I was working 45 hours a week, I only saw my children 2 hours a day. My daughter was really suffering from anxiety and the school started to notice she was not feeling good and was afraid of me. I wasn’t coping.
So, I decided to stop working and look for help. When I got into a skills group at my local mental health team, I mentioned my daughter was suffering. They called Social Services. And now I am a year on and things are much, much better. I have changed medication, and gone through lots of support with Social Services, my daughter’s school, and really worked on my wellbeing and my relationship with my daughter. I adopted a greyhound and he literally got me fitter, I lost weight and my back is much better because I walk an hour a day with him. Plus our dog helps my daughter with her anxiety and gives her lots of cuddles and play, and me and her bond over him.
I still have a long way to go, but I am on my way. And that is all because I am willing to own up to my demons and bad deeds and invest in positive change. And it does involve admitting to my 10 year old I have behaved badly and treated her wrong. That is hard. But I am sure it is nothing compared to losing her altogether.
What I have struggled with the most though, is that I have got 2 cautions. One because I couldn’t deal with my alcoholic husband, an overactive thyroid, my mental health conditions and breastfeeding a 3-year old. And a 10-year old struggling with school. One day, my ex-husband was taunting me whilst drunk, I told him several times to stop and go for a walk but he kept harassing me verbally. I just snapped. He was holding our daughter, and I slapped him on the cheek, once. His head bumped my daughter’s head, she started crying and he just went mad. He put her down in the hallway in the buggy and kicked and beat me through the kitchen. He nearly strangled me. Eventually he pinned me to the floor and sat on top of me. He then let go and I walked straight to the phone and called the police. They came. And arrested me, because I was the one who started. He never faced any consequences whatsoever. And I was the one being taken, in front of my children, in handcuffs to the police station and held overnight. I didn’t dare to press charges against him, because I was really worried he’d make sure the children would be taken away from me and what else he’d do to me.
Then 2 years later, something happened again. This time my ex-husband had just been made homeless by me, because his drinking was so bad that Social Services basically said that if I didn’t safeguard my children from him, they’d be taken away from me. He was staying in a room a few streets down and his mother was visiting and staying with me over Christmas. I started telling her about how hard it was living with her son, drinking so much and really causing all sorts of mayhem. But she did not want to hear of it. She was defending him and basically I was the crazy one, being violent etc. I felt so so upset and angry. I felt so alone with it all. I felt I started to lose control over my emotions, so I put my shoes and coat on and wanted to leave the house to walk it off and calm down. I couldn’t speak, I was so on edge. But when I tried to step over the doorstep my mother-in-law grabbed me by my arm and tried to stop me from going. I think she thought I would go to her son and do something to him. But that touch by her was too much, I lost it and pushed her with both hands by the throat. She stumbled backward and fell over. I turned around and ran away.
That resulted in a second caution. But the effect it had on me was enormous. I felt so unsafe to be around people, even my own family. For the next few years I didn’t allow anyone to stay overnight in my house and I isolated myself. I felt I was a danger to others and I felt very guilty and angry at the same time. I felt nobody was acknowledging my side of the story, and the fact that I had no help or support from anyone.
It took me years to get over that. And to be honest, I am still very wary of others, I don’t trust anyone and I still isolate myself, because I feel unsafe. I feel I might attract the wrong people, and endanger them or myself and my children. I was very worried I might kill someone. And that feeling has always stayed with me, that if I get in the wrong situation with someone I might hurt that person, or I will get hurt. And if it happens again, I will go to prison and my children will go into care or live with my ex-husband.
And now, it is 7 years since the last incident and I feel a lot better. But what has remained is that fear of attracting the wrong person. I have been so afraid that I even tried accepting staying single and alone. I haven’t been in a serious relationship since, and I am trying to figure out how I could change the people I attract and who I am attracted to. But I have no idea.
I just hope by writing my blog, doing my art and study and my weekly therapy sessions to get to grip with this. I want to find a way, I want to be loved and love another. Cause there is no greater thing in life than experiencing love.