T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 79774
posted 06-12-2012 01:18 PM
I'm hoping someone can suggest a/some resources for a friend of mine. My friend, F, has a very close friend, X, who has a serious abuse history. F has been struggling with this for some months now, and via a tip from a mutual friend has found his way to talking to me. I can help a fair amount, but there's some extra help that I believe that F needs and I don't know what best to point him to.
F says that he hasn't experienced abuse himself. F is clearly very close to X and cares about her and her experiences a great deal. F tells me that X now often talks to him about her childhood and the abuse that she experienced. As far as F knows, X hasn't had help in healing from this, doesn't talk to anyone else about it, and hasn't told anyone else other than her mother and brother, who already knew, and who F believes are positive relationships and not abusive. F doesn't know how to deal with what X tells him at all. I figure he's doing ok as a person to disclose to, because he believes her, doesn't try to explain away her experiences or quiet her, and clearly she keeps talking to him. He feels like he doesn't know how to handle the information at all, doesn't know what to say to her, doesn't know how to handle his own feelings, doesn't know How to understand what she tells him. Reading what F writes to me, F is clearly traumatised by what he's hearing and what he's discovering about the world; a lot of what he says is very much in line with what people who personally experienced abuse commonly say when they're setting out on their processing and healing journey. I think that F might be very much helped by a book/s or literature, perhaps, that addresses some of the issues behind abuse and helps people to "understand" and come to terms with it. The difficulty, of course, is that F is not personally a victim/survivor, and my strong feeling is that at the moment F would be further traumatised by the kind of frank story-sharing that's common to a lot of Survivor material. F, of course, doesn't have the kind of in-built knowledge that "this stuff happens" that comes from experiencing it oneself, so needs help wrapping his mind round that. Something that's conventionally aimed at "allies" is also not appropriate, as F is feeling this deeply personally and needs personal support, processing and healing before receiving any instructions on how best to behave to someone who was abused. CONTENT WARNING for abuse, next paragraph. F tells me that X was disbelieved and untreated for multiple bodily-based illnesses as a child, and then labelled "crazy" by her well-respected psychiatrist father, who was then instrumental in having her institutionalised in her early teens long-term in a psychiatric hospital, where she wasn't treated for the bodily conditions that she Does have but where she was given all kinds of strong medication for the conditions she Supposedly had, many of which had major side-effects, including causing "crazy"-appearing behaviour. A nurse in the institution abused her (I don't know in what way), she spoke up about it, and nobody did anything, including her father - even being happy that this nurse was the only one who could control her. The nurse continued to abuse her. She also experienced the kinds of traumatic loss of bodily autonomy, choice and freedom that are all too common in such institutions. She finally got out when she convinced a psychiatrist that she wasn't "crazy". I realise that just by myself I'm not adequate to handle all of this, but F doesn't know where to turn or who to trust, and at the moment he trusts me, so I figured we'd start there. I'm also concerned about X (whose identity I don't know and don't want to know because that would be a breach of her confidentiality and trust in F), but I figure that what I can usefully do is help F, and then when F is a bit more together F might be in a position to point X towards things that typically help victims/survivors. So far, F has said nothing to me about X that suggests anything other than a person processing and healing from abuse (ie, no medical concern, nothing that abuse-healing wouldn't help). F is in the "I don't understand how this can Happen", "I Need to Understand", "please help me understand", "how can the very people/structures that are Supposed to help and care Do This?", "I cry about this" and "I can't stop thinking about this" and "I'm so angry about her father" stage. F is clearly traumatised and struggling. I can say a fair amount to help with some of that, but I figure that there must be good books with thousands of words already written, and it's more sensible for F to read it himself than for me to basically repeat less-well what some of those books say. So, can anyone suggest something/s that might be good for F? Oh, and F is early-mid 20s. And thanks for reading my long post. (I've been away for a while while I deal with some personal stuff, and I've not felt like I'd be any use to individuals or the collective. I'll be very happy to be back, if you'll all have me, when I'm suitable again.)
Member # 3
posted 06-12-2012 02:26 PM
Hey, Redskies, it's good to see you!
First things first? Sounds like F is WAY late on setting some healthy boundaries. It might hep to tell F that doing this the way it's been going certainly isn't good for F, and also is probably of very limited use to X, too. So, F needs to first of all make clear that this isn't workable for them, and they want to help, but this isn't the way. I'd suggest F, post-haste, refer X to Rape Crisis, who can connect X with excellent victim services and support. (They can likely also connect X with some help when it comes to the medical/psychiatric abuses.) Honestly, I'm not sure that I feel that even further immersing in what you're asking for is a sound thing for F. I actually think stepping WAY back from all of this for a little while first sounds like it's really important and, again, something that needed to happen well before now. Can you see why I'm in disagreement here? I don't suppose you have any sense, either, of why this has gone the way it has, ostensibly with no boundaries whatsoever? I'm perplexed about that in terms of F and what the story is there. I feel like there's some big part of something missing from all of this.
Member # 3
posted 06-12-2012 02:28 PM
I should add, I also think F waiting at ALL to get X connected with SOUND help and support from qualified people who CAN handle this and do so with boundaries would be a super-bad idea.
Before F can really start to take care of F-self, this pattern -- the influx of stuff F obviously can't handle -- needs to stop.
Member # 96015
posted 06-12-2012 03:43 PM
I agree with Heather - while it is clear that X needs a lot of support, getting all of it from F is not going to be good for either of them. One of my current partners has a large abuse history that she has recounted to me, but we both maintain a very clear policy of postponing/ending conversations about abuse if it becomes to much for one or both of us to handle. I can only listen to her describe things that have happened to her for so long at a stretch before it makes me panicky or nauseous, and so I make sure to let her know when I need processing space, too. Loading F with secondary trauma is not going to help X that much - it seems like it's causing F a lot of harm, and traumatizing one of the only friends she can discuss her abuse history with is going to just leave X with fewer support resources.
Seeking out a therapist and literature about helping people handle abuse could help F, but he shouldn't do it in order to dive even deeper into X's life and expose himself to more stress. Backing away and giving himself space to seek support himself is important.
Member # 79774
posted 06-14-2012 03:36 PM
Thank you. I knew plenty enough to have known that for myself, but I guess that just demonstrates that I'm not very on-the-ball at the moment.
I've told F about how talking about it is nearly always part of and necessary to healing, how counselling is very different to general talking, how someone with a personal relationship just can't be a sole support/help person, even if they're adequately trained, and how abuse-recovery folk are really good. I guess he's processing all that at the moment. I don't know F very well, so I'm not sure I can have a worthwhile read on what's going on. What I do know about F is that he's very anti-establishment, sees himself very much as an activist. My opinion, which may or may not mean anything at all, is that he's not as much of an activist as he likes to think he is, and doesn't know as much as he thinks he does. He posts stuff about feminism, and mostly I think "yeh, and...", and sometimes "yeh that's not feminist, there's a load of gender-essentialist nonsense in there too...". Someone who knows about political theory says that F's political opinions that he's convinced are right don't hold up to political theory, which he doesn't know and doesn't care much to debate; I find that his political opinions don't match up to the real world (say, would actually Help poor people - maybe F didn't know that I was disagreeing with him As an actual kind-of-poor person?). He's always fighting for the underdog, but as far as I can tell, has no area where he lacks privilege himself. He's socially awkward and insecure and appears to think that he's one of life's stepped-upons, and lacks a little awareness of how relatively privileged he really is. So I wonder if he wouldn't think of going to any established group for help with any of this, because mainstream establishment generally is "bad", and because maybe he's used to thinking he can figure everything out himself. Although it is very clear that he feels and knows that he doesn't know how to handle this, I wonder if he thinks he should be able to find out how to handle it himself and not have to involve others or experts. I would imagine that there would be an issue with X not trusting professionals or experts after her experiences. I have asked F explicitly if there's likely to be a problem there and something that needs to have a way round found. I don't know if X is part of any anti-establishment groups or mindset, but it's certainly possible, as many of the people F knows are somewhere in that category.
Member # 3
posted 06-14-2012 04:05 PM
So, in other words, maybe part of the problem here -- to put it very neatly -- is that F needs to get over himself and recognize he's not qualified to be this person's counselor?
And not this person's rescuer, either?
Member # 79774
posted 06-14-2012 04:20 PM
Ha. Yep. I was trying not to be too judgemental off my own opinion, because I know I'm not a fan of F, and I didn't want that to affect how I dealt with him.
I'll say this for him, though - he does really, really care about this, and it seems like the issue itself too, not just what happened to this specific person. He's all angry and baffled and hurt that the world in general just won't talk about this issue. I have no idea how to encourage F to "get over himself" about this and convince him that other people may be right. I don't think there's a good track record of F taking on what someone else says and having it shape/change his thoughts if it doesn't already fit with what he was thinking. So that's maybe my problem - I'm dealing with a very stubborn, in some unfortunate ways quite determinedly ignorant person, but one who still genuinely cares about this loads and is genuinely hurting. I feel a conflict of wanting to push him very hard indeed and not wanting to push him at all.
Member # 3
posted 06-14-2012 04:29 PM
Okay, but here's the drill: when we really, really care, then we will tend to generally get over ourselves enough that our own shit isn't keeping someone from the help they actually need.
Clearly, this person is aware he can't handle this, even if he's decided he's somehow more qualified do deal with it than someone with the education and training to do so. (Which, FYI, doesn't have to be establishment: most rape crisis and DV orgs are very grassroots.) And the world in general DOES talk about this issue, just maybe not his world. I'd say that unless you think he's endangering X or talking her out of getting real help, the only thing you can do is make clear what he needs to do diplomatically, and then I'd walk away from this and make clear that you are. You might even add that if he truly wants to help, not only can he direct X to some people who can, maybe he can ask those people/groups/orgs how he can constructively help them. After all, if he's what's in the way here and he won't recognize that, there's nothing you can do. And making that clear and exempting yourself after you do may make more clear than anything what he needs to do.
Member # 79774
posted 06-14-2012 04:39 PM
Yep. Heard you, and thank you.
(I think he would call anything with a name, a structure, and premises in a building "establishment", hence my disdain for his outlook showing through somewhat. I'm hardly "woo the mainstream establishment" myself. I just think, goodness sake, look at what something actually is/does before judging.) Above, you suggested Rape Crisis as a place to start. I don't know if any of the abuse was sexual - is that still a good recommendation for X?
Member # 3
posted 06-14-2012 04:42 PM
I'd say so. They're great, and if they're not the right place for her, I feel certain they'll direct her to who is.
So, by that token, he's establishment, too. Everyone is. But honestly, I just think, caring about you, this sounds like something to walk away from. If this dude can't put his politics to the side to help someone in such dire need, there's just stuff here you can't make a dent in. And you've got your own stuff, so even his asking YOU for help for HIM strikes me as pretty messed up.
Member # 79774
posted 06-14-2012 04:58 PM
Thanks. I'd rather be able to give a concrete suggestion to someone when I'm getting out myself.
And quite so