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Author Topic: frightened of sexuality...don't know how or why
jazzberry
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Hi.

It's been a long time since I last posted here. In that time, I've been an on-and-off emotional wreck, fighting a battle with my mind...my mind often decides that it hates me, and tells me various iterations of/reasons for this on a daily basis. (I went through psychiatric testing with no diagnosis made--long story short, I'm painfully self-aware, and I hate it.) I've been like this for years, but it's gotten worse after last year's events.

One of my recurrent issues is that my mind has decided that I should be completely non-sexual.
Not asexual and/or aromantic, but that I actively shouldn't want or want to act on desires and/or sexual impulses (despite having them), and that I should fear them and be ashamed of myself for having them.

I'm not sure how this has come to be. I know for many years, I was terrified of my "first kiss", let alone my "first time being sexual with anyone". (Partly attributed to the threat of mono in high school--I was always afraid of getting infected.) When those things occurred, while safe in terms of 'physical' protection, my mind kept shaming me about what I was doing.

My mind's main message to me about desire, sexuality, and sexual behaviour is: "It's perfectly okay for everyone else to do all this stuff, but *not you*. You're supposed to be *better* than that and not do anything at all."

Now, my terror of physical intimacy partly stems from bad experience with an abusive relationship (I'm already scared of emotional intimacy with someone--physical intimacy? That's so far beyond thought that it's near-impossible!) and partly from the messages my mind keeps sending me.

I actively want sexuality to be a positive aspect in my life--I don't want to spend my life celibate and lonely. But the messages my mind keeps sending me are getting so oppressive and overpowering that on some days I've gotten irrationally angry and snapped at other people for "flaunting" their openness to be cuddly and kissy in public.

I'm scared.

I don't know if this is my mind's way of 'punishing' myself for having desire when there's no one to reciprocate it--punishing myself for wanting what I can't (or, in my mind, shouldn't) have.

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September
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Welcome back, Jazzberry!

Is this something that has started recently (such as, since leaving that abusive relationship), or has it been going on for longer? Do you know when it started and what was happening in your life at the time that it did?

What were the messages surrounding sexuality that you grew up with? How did your parents talk to you about sexuality?

Do you feel that it is wrong for everyone, or just you? Do you have an idea of what it is around sexuality that you find wrong?

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Johanna
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Heather
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I'd also ask if maybe you might try and define sexuality or expressing sexuality: I wonder if that could help.

For instance, you seem to be framing it as something base (when you say you're thinking you should be "better" than having or expressing a sexuality).

I think being able to look at how you're defining sexuality and the expression of sexuality right now might give us something very helpful to work with here.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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If it helps to have a framework for a non-personal, broad definition of sexuality, this might come in handy: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/body/sexuality_wtf_is_it_anyway

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jazzberry
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First off, thanks for the welcome, replies and further questions to delve into the issue/s at hand.

This will be a VERY LONG post.
You have been warned.
Many trigger warnings for abusive behaviour.

September:

To start off, I don't think there's anything wrong with having or expressing sexuality in a healthy manner. That goes out for other people. The only one that I feel is compelled NOT to is myself. In Transactional Analysis terms, my mindset is "I'm Not-OK, You're OK". I hope that explains it a little more.

This had been going on for a long time--it started probably around my early to mid-teens, and continued on from there. I wouldn't even allow myself to have crushes on people unless I felt there was a possibility of developing something. When I was in the relationship, my attitude towards my sexuality was much more comfortable and self-permissive. After the relationship and its brutal aftermath, the negative thoughts returned.


What was happening in my life when those thoughts began...runs right along with the messages I grew up surrounded with regarding sexuality. It wasn't really talked about, and for the most part, it was denied at all costs.

Family-wise, my father was/is abusive, and from when I hit puberty onward, things became progressively worse. I was yelled at for wearing cropped t-shirts and forced to change into cap-sleeved ones that didn't fit across the chest as well. I wasn't allowed to close the door to my room or to the bathroom when I needed to use either. I learned that my bedroom door never locked because he switched the doorknob with that of the linen closet. I became afraid to shower when he was around because he would barge into the bathroom and try to peek through the curtain. He once threatened to call the police and child services because I locked the door so I could shower in privacy. Once, sitting at home reading, he came into my room and warned me "This is what boys are going to try to do to you" before snapping my bra. If I took my mother's side when he was angry, yelling at her and threatening her, he called me his "second wife." When divorce proceedings went on, I cut off contact with him, but saw him predatorily staring at girls my age. I haven't seen or spoken with him in 5 years, but I'm still afraid because he knows my address and school. The message I learned from him was "You should be a clean little girl...but once you grow up, it's open season." It could partly explain why I'm uncomfortable with age disparity for myself--I'm always suspicious of age being used as a power-play.

My mom was/is relatively supportive of me developing a sexual identity--she never stopped my reading books on it, or asking questions which led to more books, though she was uncomfortable with my talking about setting up contraception for myself in advance of any relationship--she thought that having that in place meant I was ready to rush right into any sexual activity. Even now, it's a dicey topic, but we've found some mutual agreement to disagree. The message I learned from her was "Don't get physically intimate with someone unless you know them well enough to trust them, but otherwise, it's okay."
I feel it's sound advice, so I've adopted it.

At school...it was taught half-decently in elementary and middle school, and surprisingly well-taught in high school, supplemented with Planned Parenthood workshops on various topics beyond STIs--contraception, orientation, and building a sexual identity. I mostly read books on puberty, identity, sexuality, and body politics on my own (Lynda Madaras: THANK YOU) and figured things out for myself as a teen feminist.
Socially, it was hellish. I got bullied a lot--called ugly, accused of being a man in girl's clothing, was harassed by one classmate for 2 years with suggestive, explicit taunts that I was sleeping with him. Faculty did nothing about it--just said 'boys will be boys/maybe he likes you/standard ignoring statements'. I only got asked out in prank form, otherwise ignored, told that if I got laid I'd be more laid-back but it seemed clear that'd never happen the way things were. By high school, I was pretty much invisible. I gave up caring at that point, but I'd learned that I was a neutered being in the public eye, only pointed out when someone needed a punch line.

Theatre school was a lot more closed and cliquey, with hookups and couples forming like mildew on a shower curtain. I didn't know how to process it, so I blamed myself for being the odd one out. In an 'outside' class, I met the guy who ended up being my abusive relationship. I thought he was interested in me...from that I've learned to be suspicious if someone appears interested.
From the relationship, he rarely wanted to talk about the physical/sexual side of the relationship, and when we did anything physical/sexual, he was disinterested and would stop and pull away on the grounds that I was "enjoying it too much". I felt uncomfortable, and while I voiced that, it didn't change the way I was treated. From that, I learned that if I want something or someone, I should prepare to be rebuffed at all costs.


TL;DR version of all that:
Loads of shoddy life experience brought me here. I learned to blame myself for others' mistreatment.


Heather:

I read over the article you linked to--it's eye-opening. It also shows there are a lot of areas that I'm really unsure of/unable to deal with.

The physical and chemical stuff I can handle, it's the emotional/intellectual and social/interpersonal/cultural stuff I can't handle.

In the Circles model...sexual/reproductive health is the only one I feel comfortable with. I can look after my health and be responsible about that, easy.

I haven't given too much thought to orientation/identity or behaviours/practices. When I have, I've felt okay with them, but they don't figure in as much.

Sensuality is something I'm not always comfortable with. I have to feel comfortable around someone in order to not react negatively to touch, and soft, gentle touches can sometimes feel like too much to me, almost sexual on my skin and I'll feel a need to remove the lingering 'sensation' (ex: scratching my shoulder hard after someone lightly taps it because the softness/gentleness of the touch made me feel uneasy).

Intimacy? Scares me right off the bat. Most of my experiences there have been enough to make me fear it for good.

Power/Agency? I see almost every social interaction as a power struggle, a fight to get the upper hand. I'm always afraid of being the one with less power. I have a decent amount of agency in these situations, and usually use it in fight-or-flight mode. If something makes me feel uncomfortable, I usually leave.


Overall, I don't see sexuality as something "base", but I feel uncomfortable with it enough that my mind creates an excuse for not being able to deal with and resolve it.


Hope that all helps.


Thanks again for listening.

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Robin Lee
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HI Jazzberry:

Thank you for sharing all this with us. You've been through a lot!

What I'm hearing here in regards to your sexuality (mind, I'm talking about your sexuality, not sexuality in general) is that in many ways it's always been defined for you. Your father, your classmate, and your abusive partner all defined *your* sexuality on their terms, terms that weren't at all good for you. I'm so sorry there was never any intervention with your classsmate, or with your father. Those are traumatic experiences you're describing.

It makes sense too, given the positive messages you've received from the reading you've done and the education you received in high school, that you would consider healthy expressions of sexuality okay and even good for other people, but not for you.

There's a lot to talk about here, but I'll just start with a couple of things:


(for organization I'm numbering them; but the numbers have nothing to do with level of importance)
1. Did you ever receive any support for the abuse (and yes, that's abuse) you received from your father? You mentioned psychiatric testing above. Even though there was no diagnosis, did you receive any therapy?

2. In talking about the circles of sexuality, you mention that you perceive any sort of sensual touch from others as uncomfortable and vaguely sexual. What about the way you connect with yourself sensually? In other words, how do you interact with your body?

3. You've talked about how you think about the possibility of partnered sex. What about interacting with yourself sexually (which can be different from interacting with yourself sensually)? Is masturbation attached to the same self-prohibition
that partnered sex is?

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Robin

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jazzberry
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Robin Lee:

1) I knew my father was abusive in every way possible--but trying to explain it to support offered in the area I was living in at the time was difficult, if not useless. School counsellors reiterated the "you know, deep down, your father still loves you" speech countless times, and because the abuse was more psychological warfare than broken bones and lacerations, they either didn't understand or didn't want to get involved. I once got told by a volunteer hotline that because the sexual abuse wasn't outright molestation or rape, it didn't really count. I'm paraphrasing it, but it sure as hell didn't help.

The psychiatrist didn't offer therapy, but encouraged me to work with the therapists available at my school...one of which had outright victim-blamed me after my ex assaulted me on campus. I've seen a variety of different therapists throughout to try and work out things for myself, but more often than not the therapy leaves me feeling more messed-up than when I began treatment. Even with explaining what I've gone through, a number of therapists seem puzzled by the breadth of experience, accusing me of "playing the victim" and refusing to change if I feel uncomfortable with their judgments of how I shouldn't have taken everything so seriously, yada yada yada.

2) My interaction with my body is...well, "it's complicated".

I've been super-sensitive all my life--had to cut clothing tags out because they itched, disliked some foods solely for texture, cried at outdoor concerts because the bass mix in the speakers was too loud and giving me a headache. Standard description of Dabrowski's "sensual overexcitability", basically. (I was identified as "extremely gifted" at a young age, and this is a common trait. It partially explains it.)

When it comes to touch, for the most part, I'm okay with it. I still get freaked out at very light, delicate touches--the kind that people don't really do on purpose unless it's deliberately flirtatious/seductive (example: A drapes an arm over B's shoulders, but A lightly and deliberately brushes their fingertips against B's shoulder blade). Sometimes, if my body senses something like that by accident, or I sense a touch as slightly too "soft", it makes me feel "itchy" in my skin, like I need to scratch it away.

I wouldn't say I have a good relationship to my body either--the Cartesian mind/body split is a good way to describe it. I would love for my body to be as agile as my mind...but it's not.

Though I am grateful my body is healthy and can function well, I'm embarrassed by my lack of athleticism. I never did well in sports, and grew up in an area where athletic ability partly determined your popularity. I've always kept myself healthy and in shape, but I resent that I can't keep up athletically. I have some neuromuscular issues with fine-motor coordination, little strength beyond carrying bags of groceries, and run out of breath after about 10 minutes of an intense cardio workout when everyone else is going strong.

I know by now that I should "make peace" with my body, but I can't bring myself to that. I've always wanted to express myself more physically, and be more poised and graceful, without necessarily being a good dancer or acrobat...but I can't, and I feel guilty that I fail my own expectations.

Interacting with that, I can't say there's much I do about it. Excluding theatre work and classes, I try to avoid situations where intensive physicality is needed. In classes, while the profs are sympathetic and understanding of my limitations, I constantly compare myself to my classmates' physical abilities and see myself as lacking. On my own, I go for walks and am comfortable then, because I can set my own pace and not have to compare myself to anyone. Most of my free time is spent reading books and/or listening to music, neither of which require grace or poise. If I don't have to be in a group activity that shows me as awkward and ungainly, I won't do it.

I largely ignore the "sixth sense" Brillat-Savarin wrote of, "physical desire". Sight, smell, taste, hearing, (general) touch...I can handle my sensitivity to them. The "sixth" one mentioned...I'm still unsure of it.

This is a perfect segue into the third question...

3)I used to have less of a problem interacting with myself in a sexual manner--I read erotica, had no issues with masturbation, etc. until recently. I haven't done any of that for quite some time now. It felt boring and hollow, and in all honesty, I enjoyed partnered interaction more than interacting alone. Being able to work with and play off of someone else in a safe, sane, and consensual framework is a huge turn-on for me, and it feels better to me than doing by myself. Reading erotica, masturbation, and fantasizing aren't self-prohibited per se; I just find it easier not to because if I do, I'm reminded afterwards of how lonely I am.

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Heather
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jazzberry: this is a little OT, but if it makes you feel any better, I'm truly mortified by the response you've gotten from professionals in the past when reporting the abuse that happened in your upbringing.

I'm mortified because it most certainly was abuse, and I'm also mortified because the kinds of things you have posted about here recounting it are things I'd expect any professional in the field to know are, in fact, very common kinds of abuse, especially either a) before abuse escalates even further, and b) from abusive people who are intelligent enough to do only what they feel certain they can get away with. [Frown]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Robin Lee
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Hi Jazzberry,

It's very clear that you do have an agile mind. [Smile] You're very perceptive and are able to articulate your observations and feelings very clearly.

As Heather said, the fact that those who should have known better denied your experience of abuse--did not listen to you at all--is appalling. I think it's real testament to your ingelligence and sense of self that you do recognize your experiences as having been abusive, in the face of such strong opposition and denial.

Is finding quality therapy something you would like to do? If so, we could help you see what's available in your area and evaluate whether it would be a good fit.

As I read through your feelings about and interactions with your body (and I can sympathise personally, as someone who's always been physically weaker than others around her) I noticed that you hold yourself to a certain standard. Let's see if I can explain what I mean with a very simple example.

Clothing labels: They're annoying to many of us, but it sounds like it goes deeper than that for you in terms of the sensitivity of your skin and the way your brain-body connection processes those sensations. At the same time, this doesn't make you problematic. Fixing the problem of the clothing labels is simple, and while your reactions are more extreme, most would agree that clothing labels are the problem.

Essentially, what I'm saying is that many of the things you describe as different or problematic about the way your body works are just the way your body works. There doesn't have to be a value judgement attached to this.

I think you know that logically, but the challenge comes when you try to assimilate that belief into your own reality.

Incidentally, I've heard several people who have had similar experiences of abuse to the ones you describe say that they experience sensitivity to light touches and irritating textures. I'm not sure if that helps you normalize the experience, but I thought I'd put it out there.

Making peace with your body sounds like a great goal, but it's not something that has to happen all at once. What is one thing you feel like you could do that would help you connect with your body. Perhaps it could be a fitness goal since you mention wanting to be more physically fit, but it certainly doesn't have to be.

What I'm hearing in the way you describe your relationship to yourself sexually is that masturbation, erotica reading, and so on, isn't as satisfying as partnered sex. Do I understand you correctly? I'm wondering if you feel the same sort of shame and anxiety around these solo sex activities as you do with partnered activities, or is it more of a lack of interest?

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Robin

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jazzberry
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Heather and Robin,

Thanks for the support. I'm close to crying in gratitude of that alone.

I'm not looking for therapy at the moment, but I appreciate the offer.

I'm a bit confused about what it means to "connect with the body", in all honesty. That might take some explanation.

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Heather
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(Btw, Jazzberry, just so you know, I've asked Robin and other vols to take the lead on this one. One of the reasons I so get some of what you're saying with your family history is that the dynamics and behaviours you described with your father are WAY too familiar to me: my stepfather? Was a mirror, seriously.

Because of that, I'm concerned some of this will be a little too close to home for me to not muck it up, which is why I'm staying a bit back, save expressing what I did. Just wanted you to know so you didn't think I was just blowing you off.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Robin Lee
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You're very welcome. [Smile]

When I talked about connecting with your body, I was talking about being fully present in it...not having that mind-body split that you talked about above.

You mentioned doing theatre. Do you act? If so, you could sort of liken connecting with your body with connecting with a theatre role, where, for the duration of the theatre piece, you become that person, with their thoughts, feelings, sensations, movements, likes/dislikes, etc.

Put another way, is there anything you do (and it doesn't have to be something physical) where you feel fully at peace and comfortable?

Regarding your fear and anxiety about sexuality, I'd like to suggest a book to you. It's written for sexual abuse survivors and I think you might benefit from at least glancing through it.

The book is: Healing Sex by Stacey Haines.

[ 09-27-2012, 01:34 PM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]

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Robin

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jazzberry
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Robin:

With regards to theatre--I'm studying it, so yes, I do act. And connecting with a role has been scary for me, because in "becoming" the part and feeling everything filtered through their being, I don't know how to react after the role is done, either going numb and slightly "shocked" or quietly freaking out because the feeling was overwhelming. It's something I'm learning to work with on that aspect as well.

Something that makes me feel at peace...often listening to music does that. I love going for walks and taking my headphones with to "lose myself in the music". Unless I force myself to focus on my surroundings, I'll get lost in my thoughts, often negative ones, but when I can stop my mind from overthinking...it's beautiful, but overwhelming. I don't go for walks very often, though I feel I should if I enjoy it. (I'll often force myself to be more social because I already spend so much time alone.)

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Robin Lee
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Nodding.... You've mentioned loneliness a few times. In the first post you made in this thread you mentioned not wanting to be "lonely and celebate" your whole life. Those are two very different experiences (though certainly they can happen concurrently) so I'm wondering if you could say a little more about how they connect for you?

You've already mentioned that you're not interested at this time in finding therapy. Are you up for trying different resources, like the book I suggested above, and others we could give you?

--------------------
Robin

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jazzberry
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Robin:

Sorry about the delay--things got tense and hectic lately.

To start, I'm okay with looking at various resources. I may not be able to physically get to some of the books, though, so I'll see what I can do there. If I can find free previews online or local library copies, it helps. If not, please bear with me. (I found a free preview of Haines' book, and I'm reading what I can.)

On the interconnection between loneliness and celibacy, 'twould be easier explained if I first explain each separately.

Loneliness...oof. It's a heavily weighted concept for me to begin with. I've spent most of my life getting rejected by people, especially the people I wanted to please or win acceptance from--family, potential friends/crushes, people I thought liked me but just wanted answers to homework, etc. The only person I've completely had on my side in my life is my mom, and though our relationship can be at times dysfunctional, I am loath to disentangle myself because she's all I have. (Family-wise, socially, support system...yup. All her. And neither of us wants me to spend my life this way.)
Paraphrasing the much longer story, I've spent many years being denied and/or told that I don't "deserve"--compassion, acceptance, love, someplace where I can be myself and not fear judgment or censure.

In public, though I come across as reserved, I'm willing to open up more and be myself when I feel comfortable around people. I make efforts to reach out--talking with people, inviting them for coffee or to just hang out, and asking them to then contact me to finalize details (the litmus test to see if they really do want to hang out or if they're just being polite)...like this write-in question, I'm not sure if everyone is flaky or politely rejecting at this point. There has to be a greater reason to my being the odd one out--it can't always be my fault and given due thereof.

I don't want to spend my life alone, but I'm terrified of getting hurt by others and sometimes think it better to be "safe" and unhappily isolated than keep getting cut deeper each time I try to be part of the "human world" I wasn't allowed into before. (Aristotle said that without social interaction, hu/man is either a beast or a god. That explains the "human" concept.)

On celibacy...it's not so much about the physical aspect as it is about not being "with" someone. (I recently sat near a group of colleagues discussing fetishes and "extreme" things they'd want to try out sexually...I stayed out of it because my idea of something "extreme" at this point is wanting to be with someone that I not only like, but who likes me back. That feels outlandish enough to me already.) The self-imposed celibacy is a result of that...I don't feel comfortable in my own skin, I don't expect anyone else to want it either at this point (see history of rejection/denial above), and I don't want to start daydreaming about something that'll depress me when I have to "return" to reality.
It's easier to daydream about work, studies, or travel, because I feel more stable and positive about dealing with adverse situations there. Anything involving social interaction or physical interaction feels like too much for me--I often suspect that I'll get hurt by them in the end.

For now, I'll leave as my final thought a verse from the song "Starship Trooper" by Yes. "Loneliness is a power that we possess to give or take away forever." This verse has been poignant as hell for me for many years, because trying to take the weight of loneliness away isn't something I can do completely on my own.

[ 10-07-2012, 12:44 PM: Message edited by: jazzberry ]

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Robin Lee
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HI Jazzberry,

With this frequency and duration of social isolation, I can understand how deep your loneliness must feel. I don't imagine it helps with your sense of yourself as a sexual being or as a social being when your workmates are discussing fetishes and sexual adventurousness. (I'm not sure the workplace is the most appropriate place for a drawn-out discussion like that, anyway.)

A lot of things (albeit interconnected things) have come up here. Among them: healing from past relationship and sexual trauma, building a healthy sexuality for yourself, feeling less isolated socially and feeling the possibility of romantic connection in your future.

Do any of these feel more important than any others? Anything key that I missed?

Socially, have you found it possible to connect with people over more superficial things? I imagine that going to groups that cater to people with shared interests has been suggested to you before, so I won't suggest it, but will simply asked if you've done things like that and if you've felt any more connection with peoiple, even if they don't end up taking you up on your suggestion of further contact?

I know you had some downright unpleasant times with therapists, but was this rejection and struggle with social contact ever discussed? If so, any breakthroughs?

I read something in a novel once about how being alone wasn't the same as being lonely. What do you think of that? Along with your strong desire for companionship, do you feel comfortable in your own skin?

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Robin

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naplement
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hi jazzberry,
I am sorry that the abuses happened to you, and I am glad that you can understand them as such, despite so many people negating them. I can relate, as I have some partially similar problems (which I won't detail here, because it's not my thread, and the kind people of Scarleteen had already discussed most of them with me. )

What I wanted to say is that "You should be a clean little girl...but once you grow up, it's open season." sounds like a very logical base for fearing sexuality, and maybe there is a part of you that still believes that it would be bringing with itself all kinds of horrific things? Like you can protect yourself just by staying "clean"? (Or maybe not, in which case sorry.)

also, I hope you are not blaming yourself for understanding things in an intellectual level but being still defined by them in an emotional level, in AT terms, the basic script is hard to modify alone, and the parts of your mind can believe in very different things.

Why did you say that you don't want therapy? Is it because of money issues, or for the (awful) past experiences? The volunteers offered to find you someone better, what about that? When I first started going to a psychologist, and before it could actually do anything, the awesome thing was that I had permitted myself to hope, because there was someone (an expert!) who said that she thinks it can get better, even after me telling the short version of the problems. I know people and situations are different, I just wish you the same. (And after that came a lot of work and stops, so it's not all pink, but I have found people I have things in common with, and things are changing.)

I wish you the best. (is there any nice expression for agnostic blessings?) You deserve to be happy, and there must be people out there who would be honored to be with you.

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jazzberry
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naplement, thanks from an atheist for the agnostic blessings. I wish you the best as well.

Robin...

To start with, I'm studying at theatre school. Still, it's a professional-calibre program, and I refer to is as such, framing classmates as 'colleagues' for the most part. Most of my classmates/colleagues are relatively open about goings-on in their lives than I am. Their frank discussions and/or recounting of 'sexcapades' are entertaining, if not mildly humourous, but it makes me feel insecure because I'm still 'awkward about it', to use their words. (It's not as relevant, but an 'aside' to explain that part out.)

You're right. There IS a lot to deal with, and so far, I'm not seeing anything missed. I would put "feeling less isolated socially" as the central issue thus far, because often it seems easier to move forward and heal other interconnected aspects when the central one is taken care of. Having said central issue neglected for so long, I often think of myself as unsocialized, somewhere on a sliding scale between Amy Farrah-Fowler on "The Big Bang Theory" (awkward and formal, but willing to adapt--for that among other aspects, I favour her over Sheldon on the show) or, on the other end of extremes, a feral child (a messy tangle of nerves that could lash out and attack without warning). It's not a pleasant thought. I think that it's partly due to my experiences that acceptance and abuse were on a continuum of sorts, and I often (irrationally) fear that being close to someone means that I'll hurt them as much as or more than I fear getting hurt.

Going to groups has been the most suggested thing to me from every therapist, concerned/irritated teacher, and my mom (for a limited time). I've gone to book clubs, movie groups, free activities, and used to spend time in the 'club hallway' on campus.
I find that in groups, after a certain point, people will "cluster" and I end up floating on the outside. It depends on the group as well--structured ones sometimes work, but things can still get dicey. I have strong opinions and don't like mincing words on them--but it gets tiring playing self-defence. I didn't find that much in terms of shared interests, because even if I wound up sharing an interest with one or two people, there wasn't much in common beyond the group. (I cultivate interests in as many different thngs as I can. If something really interests me, I love researching as much as I can on it before hitting the "obssessive fan in love" mark. I like being a fan of something, but in moderation...I don't find extremism workable.)
Over a year ago, I was sort-of acquainted with several groups and clubs in the 'hallway', and they weren't really people I would otherwise choose to be friends with, but they didn't mind me. Even there, it seemed that others would all get together outside and I couldn't break into it. (Flakiness, irresponsibility, and drugs/drinking off-campus also made me really uncomfortable.) Some of them were friends with my ex, so since the assault last year, I cut off all ties with them. I wasn't close with them to begin with, and their humour was at times offensive/hurtful. (I still have to walk past the 'hallway' and through the stairwell where the assault happened to get to class every day. Not exactly reassuring.)

I have discussed my social struggles with therapists...and the response wasn't reassuring, regardless of the therapist. The first one I'd seen when being severely bullied suggested I "dumb down" and conform so that the taunting would stop. I refused, and carried the belief that social acceptance involves some kind of personal 'sacrifice' from that advice. I don't dig in my heels, but hiding myself or silencing myself for acceptance isn't really acceptance if I'm not what others think I've become. The insistence to conform was a recurring theme with therapists, school counsellors, etc. One therapist of more recent note suggested I use people around me as "practice" for making friends. I was sort-of acquaintances with a group at the time, but wanted to find people I could relate to more comfortably. If I kept "practising", with them, I explained, eventually I'd be part of the group, and to ditch them would then be callous and cruel. It didn't feel right to me to "use" people in that manner, and the therapist didn't take well to my saying so. The last therapist I saw, after that one, also said the same, in conjunction with the "conform a little" advice, and when I pointed out the issue with both, angrily said that if I refused their advice, then I didn't want to help myself. (This was the same therapist who victim-blamed me for being assaulted. Not a paragon of helpful advice to begin with.)

The novel quote you mentioned sounds like Cacioppo's nonfiction study of loneliness. (Great book, I might add.) He has a point. I don't mind being alone. I enjoy doing things on my own. I've mentioned before, the books, music, walks, exploring things...those are fine by me. For instance, my class went on an "inspirational outing" to a local museum a while back. Instead of joining the group tour, I chose to explore the permanent collection with a music guide. It gave me a chance to connect with the works differently, and explore at my own pace. (I later found out the group tour wasn't so great.) I've gone to a few shows on my own as well. Those too are fine by me because I can watch and react without looking over to check if someone else is enjoying it or not (which I have done on countless occasions). Still, instead of going off by myself on short breaks between classes and rehearsals, I sometimes stick around in the hopes that I can appear more 'sociable', because disappearing doesn't look too good either. In the next several months, with classes and rehearsals, I'm not going to have much time to myself. I'm dealing with it--I know it won't always work out, but I'm trying to work with what I've got at the moment.

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Redskies
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Hi, jazzberry. I hope I'm not butting in; I'm feeling some echoes of familiarity in some of the things you're writing about, and had a few thoughts.

I'm so very sorry that people generally haven't been supportive, and that those therapists responded as they did. That's so not ok. Conforming might be a reasonable suggestion to make for socialising, but it's so not acceptable as a solution for bullying and exclusion. It's never ok to imply that bullying is the victim's fault and that they should change to stop it.

I realise that you and I are significantly different, but I'm also getting the feeling that there are a few similarities, perhaps in the kinds of ways we think and/or the way a lot of the rest of the world responds to that. I, too, have experienced people repeatedly not understanding or grasping what I was trying to tell them about a bad situation, not really believing me or really accepting what I was saying, and not helping. At this point, I have to wonder whether it maybe wasn't anything up with me, or you, and not unlucky coincidence, but maybe that even many supposed professionals just Don't Get how we analyse and present things. Maybe. I just wondered if it would help you to think that it really Isn't your problem, and it isn't just you.

I've also had people repeatedly suggesting basic stuff like "join groups" as a way to make friends. They just don't get it. I'd be Doing groups, every night, for years, talk with people there, and yet still come out with no friends and no real personal connections. People seemed baffled that different advice than this was needed, and I was baffled that apparently everyone else knew how to make this work and I didn't. It wasn't an encouraging experience.

From what you say, I'm gathering that one problem you have is that people around you are genuinely not a good fit for you; they're not people who you really find it rewarding to spend time with and be close to. Do I have that right? The second thing, I'm not quite sure of. Do you feel that you know how to build up a friendship? For example, if you did meet someone who felt interesting and good to be around, would you be able to pursue that, would you know what to do, and would you be comfortable enough to do it?

Do you remember ever being around anyone who felt like a good fit, who felt rewarding to be around? (For much of my own life until the present, my answer would be "no". So I suspect that you're less peculiar than some of these folk you've dealt with seem to think you are.)

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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jazzberry
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Redskies...thank you.
I appreciate the consideration. You're not butting in; I'm glad to hear your perspective and questions.

It's easier to accept that the support systems available aren't always able to handle issues. My mother (also an abuse survivor) worked in social services before I was born, and from her experience in the field, a great deal of (if not most) therapists knew the textbook cases, but didn't understand them--unless they'd experienced something similar, they couldn't understand the patient's perspective to work with them in the most helpful way.

The first thing you asked feels self-evident. I don't think I've met people who felt like a good fit for me; most social events have been awkward, and anxious either in the moment or in hindsight. In most social events, after leaving and getting home, it takes a few hours for me to "decompress" from the mental strain of trying to gauge others' reactions in context. (And if drinking or drugs were there, sitting sober with my water bottle feels even more uncomfortable because I don't like seeing people lose control of themselves.) I would like to feel comfortable around people--not constantly monitoring, but be able to relax and not feel I have to make excuses for my reactions.

The second thing, I'm also not quite sure of. I logically know what it takes to make a relationship, friend or otherwise, but I'm not altogether sure of myself in pursuing it. I'm so used to either chasing after and giving too much or offering and getting nothing back. If I asked someone to send me a message to continue making plans and they did, I'd be thrilled, but probably a little suspicious of their intentions. So on a "rational" level, I think I know what to do, on an "emotional" level, I don't trust myself enough to think so.

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Redskies
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I had a read back of your previous threads to get a bit more focused on this.

It sounds to me as though people who've tried to help before have tried to tackle your lack of friends/real social contacts and your attempts to build connections with people around you together, as part of one big thing. What strikes me is, it might be much more helpful to separate these things and tackle them separately. It sounds to me as if the people around you are just not a good fit as possibilities for real friends, so trying to create friendships out of it just sounds like a non-starter and likely to make you feel worse about not being able to form friendships. I really do think that there are people out there who would be a good fit for you, they just might be a bit rarer and tricky to find. I do understand that it's important professionally and for some personal comfort to have some level of connection with the people around you, and it actually sounds like you're doing quite a reasonable job at it. When those people just don't fit so much, trying to make them into friendships is pretty much like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I think you might find it easier to form connections of some description with them if you knew you had better social outlets elsewhere and could be more relaxed and personally at peace with the lack of true friendship with your classmates.

So, I would probably suggest addressing the two things as separate issues. Does that sound like something that would be helpful?

If that's a route you'd like to take, I'd probably suggest brainstorming how you might meet people who could be real friends. I'd probably start by asking what sort of people you think would suit you, what sorts of things do you need and are important to you? I have a few thoughts from things you've already said are important to you, but you start this off, if you like. Does that seem like something helpful?

In terms of the people around you, it sounds like you're already managing quite well in what is, honestly, a difficult situation. It's hard to be the person that nearly everyone else finds a bit peculiar or "different". I guess I'd start by asking if you feel any differently about it, or if it seems any different to you, if you think of it as building functional acquaintanceships rather than trying to find real friendships.

I'm not overlooking that you're expressing having difficulties with social situations, but I can't help feeling that addressing that without you having people who you have any chance of genuinely connecting with and feeling comfortable with would be rather putting the cart before the horse, and the cart just isn't going to go anywhere. Adjusting the wheel action isn't going to show you any results if you're trying to drag the cart up a rocky crag. And it sounds to me like you've done enough of that, and unsurprisingly it hasn't brought you happiness.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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