Filed under: fear, Uncategorized | Tags: CPTSD, fear, safety, survivor of child sexual abuse, transgender ex-husband
Recently, during two different lunches with two different divorced friends, both friends asked me when I was thinking about physically separating from my ex. In each instance, I immediately felt that same knot of fear I always feel whenever I think about us physically separating from each other. I told them both “I think when it’s time to move out, I will know.” I say that so they will shut the fuck up already.
The pressure is getting to me though, so I talked about it with my therapist. I said “The thing is, neither of them know about my sex abuse past, or my CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) present. No one knows what it’s like to live in my head with me, with my constant fear, or what happens to me when I am alone. They have no idea what it’s like to have your heart beating in your chest so loud, or listen constantly for signs of intrusion, etc.”
My therapist said “Plus, you’re getting advice from two women who hate their husbands and who feel completely whole and secure on their own. That’s not where you are right now.”
I agreed, and said “For me, the whole thing boils down to safety. I am 39 years old, and this is the first time in my whole life I have ever felt safe. And it’s only been in the last few months that I have been able to even acknowledge that I might be safe here. Why the fuck would I leave this situation that I finally feel safe in? I mean, like last night, we both went outside and sat down, and neighbors came by and chatted with us. I went outside. I WENT OUTSIDE. I felt safe enough to leave my home and sit outside.”
She agreed, and said “To be honest, what I keep thinking is “attachment”, the developmental stage of attachment. You never felt safe with your mom, because she was never able to ensure your safety. So you created all these fears and rituals and phobias in an attempt at keeping yourself safe. But now you have found a situation where you have safely attached to someone, and she is providing you with the kind of safety you hadn’t experienced before.”
I said “Wait, so you mean that my ex is kind of a mother figure to me now?” (The funny thing about this statement is that I have always joked that I married my mother. I just didn’t mean it in this way!)
She said “Kind of, yes. It’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. You are exploring safety the way a toddler explores safety. A toddler ventures a few feet away from their mom, sees it is safe, and inches away a little bit. That’s where you are. Now that you realize you are safe, you are exploring your surroundings. Since you never learned safety as a child, you are learning it now as an adult, in a healthy safe way.”
This whole conversation blew my mind. The thing is, she’s right.
I said “So it’s okay for me to stay exactly where I am right now?”
She said “More than okay. That’s exactly what I would advise you to do. You’re not ready to leave yet, so why are you allowing others to pressure you to do so?”
I said “Well, they think that it’s unhealthy for a divorcing couple to live with each other.”
She said “It would be unhealthy for them to stay with their exes, because they hate them. But you and your ex love each other, treat each other with respect and love, and co-parent your child together. When it’s time to leave, you’ll know.”
I said “How will I know? Won’t I always want safety over anything else?”
She said “Well, toddlers grow up and when they reach teenagehood, they begin to rebel. They want to leave, they want to explore boundaries, they want to see the rest of the world. So eventually you will actually want to go. But right now, this whole safety thing is so new for you, you are exploring that. Once you feel totally and completely safe, you will want to see what else is out there.”
I think she is exactly right. Right now, the idea of leaving this safe place is so fucking scary that I can barely think about it without panicking. But maybe it won’t always be so; maybe one day I will want to explore further than my own backyard. I can’t imagine it right now, but maybe one day it will be so.
And if one day it isn’t so, then shit, where I am isn’t so bad either. I grew up in a world of shit, of unsafe shit. And now I have at least achieved safety. So I figure, okay, if my ex is now a mother figure to me, then I am grateful to have found that kind of safety and love at this point in my life. I will learn what I need to from this situation in order to grow into an independent person. My goal will be to eventually learn safety enough to be able to learn how to understand safety independent of my ex. (Panic rising in my throat just as I write that sentence.) Maybe that day will come in one year, ten years, or never. I don’t know what the future holds, but I also never thought I would feel safe and I achieved that, so who knows! The sky’s the limit now.
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