Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Circuitous thinking and disclosuse

This post may not be coherent because my thinking is muddled about this. I've been thinking about disclosure a lot. I've been running down my list of friends - long term and shorter term - trying to decide which, if any, I might talk to about my past. The fact that I am spending time (aka ruminating about) with this tells me I will take the plunge soon. It's something I am working up to - like I worked up to -

  • going to a therapist
  • telling my therapist about my abuse
  • telling my husband about my abuse
  • asking my mother about my abuse
  • telling one friend about my abuse (a safe one, that I don't see in person because she lives 3000 miles away, have known since college and who already suspected something)

I am stuck with feeling that if I tell a friend, I will feel like I've been a fraud all these years. I feel that my friends will view me differently. Which tells me that I still defining myself by what happened to me when I was a child. I am realizing that my thought process and reactions WERE formed during childhood - the circuits were laid down aberrantly. There are times when I've been sitting with a friend, chatting about this or that, when I've considered putting it out there. But I haven't. My T tells me that it will happen when I am ready. Seems like such a pat answer, but perhaps there is truth in it. I keep thinking about one friend who told me she couldn't deal with someone because there was "too much drama in her life" and she was "too high maintenance". The woman she is referring to went through a nasty divorce from someone with mental illness, has three children and is trying to make a go of it. My feeling is she deserves to be "high maintenance", but I don't want to become that person.

Perhaps part of my issue is the people I have shared with - at least hubby and mother - haven't persued it. My mother I can understand - she is self centered and it is a relief for her to have it out in the open and now she is done with it. My husband is more complicated - I have considered the following -

  • he doesn't talk about it because he finds it awkward (the one time I brought it up he said he thought it was creepy)
  • he doesn't talk about it because it hasn't changed how he thinks about me - I'm still the person he married and loves
  • he doesn't talk about it because it has changed his thinking of me

I still am left with that fact that I withheld this information about myself from him for 25 years. It feels like I have cheated him.

So I am left with my muddled thinking. After a bizarre therapy session last night.


  1. I'm thinking how I would react if one of my long time friends told me about abuse she had endured as a child.

    I wouldn't think that she was keeping a secret from me or that she was pretending to be someone she isn't for 20 or more years.

    I wouldn't think of her differently, after all I've known her a very long time.

    I wouldn't think she was high maintenance, it's not like she is demanding anything of me, or being a drama queen.

    I think I might cry, thinking about what she had to go through as a child. I would hug her really hard. I would tell her that she must be very brave in order to have made such a great life for herself. And I would tell her that if she wants to tell me more, if she ever feels the need to talk about this, day or night, that I would be there for her. And I would assure her that I wouldn't be talking to anyone else about this, and that I am honored to be her friend.

    I haven't been through abuse myself, so I can't possibly know what it is like personally. But I think I can have empathy for someone else's suffering on some level.

  2. Hi OLJ,

    If your thinking is muddled on this, then I would suggest strongly that you don't do anything now about disclosure.

    Disclosure, as you know, is something you absolutely cannot take back.

    So you have to be very careful about it.

    I have had very mixed experiences around disclosure. And, because this is such an excellent topic, I will probably go into them more on my blog. Some of the experiences have been excellent. Some not so excellent.

    Some of the not so excellent ones have mostly to do with my own feelings and insecurities about them knowing, thinking they look at my differently, etc. Sometimes those feelings are so strong that it really would have been better off not to disclose.

    The other point is that most you disclose to will never ever bring it up again. This can leave you confused.

    I'll write more about this later... thanks for giving me something important to think about!!!

  3. Harriet -
    Thank you for that lovely affirming comment. My feeling is that several of my friends would have the same response - it just comes down to a point of believing it myself. I sometimes wonder how much it would shift the dynamic in some of my friendships - right now I am very much a listener. Oh - I hope you are OK :( Drop me a short note to let me know.

    Paul - Thank you for stopping by - I'm glad I stimulated your thinking cap :) I understand completely what you are saying about the risks of disclosure - I'm sure we are in sync about our feelings on this. Your comment about people never bringing it up again hit home - that's what my husband has done - and it has left me confused. Knowing myself fairly well though - once I get to the point of writing a post like the above - I am close to acting on it. I look forward to reading whatever you might post about the subject.

    Take care.

  4. Hi OLJ,

    I think the definition of high-maintenance is someone who makes the whole of the friendship about how they can get their own needs met so that both parties get sucked into one person's personal trauma. Telling someone about your abuse is not this, unless that's then the only topic of conversation for the rest of your relationship - which I'm sure in your case its not.

    We're all guilty of being a bit needy and self-obsessed at times.. I guess its a balance.

    Personally, I think its extraordinarily brave to be even considering. I have attempted to hint at things to friends then (mentally) run for the hills on several occasions. But then, I still can't even remember my past let alone integrate and then share it.

    Good luck to you lovely.

  5. Thanks Wounded for your comment. I, like you, cannot remember much of my past. That does not seem high priority to me at this point.

    I like your concept of everyone being needy and self-obssessed at times - I'm thinking that's a normal cycle - and as you say, unless that becomes the only way one has of relating to others, it's OK.

    We all have to nurture our own needs at times.

    Take care -

  6. OLJ, I think it's incredibly brave to be contemplating disclosure. I have also had mixed experiences of this, but on the whole, they have been very positive (and even when they haven't been, I've learnt a lot about the person through their response).

    Like Paul said, most people won't mention it again. That is confusing.

    The first person I told (apart from my therapist) was my longest, bestest friend. She does view me differently in that, for her, she said it explained a few things for her - like why I don't have a good relationship with my father; like why I hated my childhood home..... but, it hasn't changed our relationship. Well, if anything, it's made it stronger.

    For me the disclosures were an important part of my healing. Of not hiding from people and the world. Of not being afraid anymore of being found out. Of a whole lot of stuff I can't lay my finger on. But, I would say don't do it unless you feel ready and comfortable.

    Take care.

  7. Kerro - Thanks for your insight on this. It is a scary thought at this point. Part of my issue is that so many of "my" friends are actually part of couples that we socialize with. I wonder how many might feel compelled to share with their husbands...

    I'm sure I will come to the point down the road. Or not. Whatever works for me.

    Thanks again,

  8. I hear you loud and clear about the struggles you are currently facing. It is such a difficult decision to face. You want the support of your friends and you want to be honest - and yet you also fear what they may think. I am a CSA survivor and I have been very careful about who I confide in. Of course my therapist...and I have a few very close friends I have shared some with...and yet one friend who did deem me too "high maint" after a very long friendship. It left a hole in my heart..but I also understand that it was her decision....
    Wishing you peace tonight... ~ Grace

  9. Grace - Thank you for your comment about this. I have not taken any action, but I do think about it a lot, particularly when I with someone. Constantly thinking - what would it be like to tell this person? I have been with relatives over the holidays and have considered what it would be like to have them know.

    Thanks for the good wishes - I wish you the same.