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About this blog

I'm still deeply ashamed of everything that happened despite the number of times I've been told it wasn't my fault.  After Silence seems like a good place to start writing as I've been offered a lot of help and support here over the past couple of years.  Not least they told me I was abused despite not knowing myself. I will be eternally grateful for that is a single act of kindness.

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I'm so sick of hearing "why didn't they come forward sooner".

When I got out, my abuser pulled of a masterful piece of misdirection.  He convinced my girlfriend dump me.  He manipulated her into thinking I was terrifyingly evil so she wouldn't listen to a word I said.  He made her afraid and suddenly alone.  So she hung out with another of his victims.  Maybe even dated that guy.  Who knows.  What I do know is that other guy was too far gone (brainwashed) to be able to protect her from Him.

After I got out, I found it so hard to talk.  A cold choking silence would take over me if I dared think of talking about it.  I knew that He had done something to me, to us.  I tried to write it all down but couldn't get more than two sentences.  The best I could manage were small statements about how dangerous He was; about what he might do.  I tried talking to the police asking them to protect my (ex)girlfriend but couldn't give them anything they could action.  I was terrified of what He might do to her. His lies were sticking in my own head so I actually started thinking I was evil.  I became suicidal.  I was suffering from depression, PTSD, with DDNOS or possibly DID.  Daily and weekly breakdowns became normal.

And what did people think?   All of what I was going through,  everything I managed to say... Most dismissed it as a hormonal teenager who's GF had just left him, "just looking for someone to blame". :duh:

It makes me so angry to think about it now.  I still blame myself for being unable to tell anyone, for being unable to find the words.  I blame myself for not remembering what had happened.  I blame myself for abandoning her.  It took me over a decade to piece it all together and by the time I did, what good could I do?  Who could I tell?  There was even less for the police to go on than when it first happened.  If He was going to hurt her then he did a long time ago.

If #MeToo has done one thing then it's given me an excuse to talk about what happened years later.  It has told people that even though it happened a long time ago, talking about it is good.

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I was reminded recently by another user of just how hard I found relationships after abuse.  I was the victim of "puppet master abuse" over some months, forced to do things with my girlfriend by a truly disguising man.
 
In the years that followed this left me believing some of his most destructive lies.  Many of them took years to work through; a process that involved experiencing life and seeing the truth with my own eyes.  Every area of my life had been tainted.  I had to completely relationships with my family.  College and work life was messed up.  Making friendships was hard as I was no-longer certain what a friendship looked like.  And all of this was happening in my teenage years when I was supposed to be building new friendships and discovering who I was.  I had a lot of catching up to do.
 
The lies he used lingered in my life for a very long time.  The most destructive one was this: He told me and my girlfriend that our love for each other was dangerous without his help.  That we would hurt each other without him.  I can't give any excuse for believing him.  But we did.  We begged him to help us.
 
Fifteen years after the abuse I still hadn't exposed and rejected this lie.  I needed to fall in love and let myself feel in love long enough, experience love in a safe environment.  Every relationship I'd had for that fifteen years had been an utter disaster.  I'd fall in love but then the fear and dread of the danger I would bring would take hold.  I'd be trying to build trust and a loving relationship while at the same time my subconscious was searching for ways to scream "Run away from me!".  No relationship lasted long enough to teach my subconscious that love was safe.
 
One way in was to spend time with my sister's family, playing with my little niece and nephew.  Love is a strange thing, there's many different types.  It was helpful to spend time in that safety.  Learning that I wasn't going to hurt them.  Simply playing silly games with them and laughing.  Children are easy to get along with and slowly the fear got less.
 
I had a great shock when one day I fell in love and didn't feel scared.  I don't know, maybe the circumstances of how I met my wife were too bizarre to set off any trigger.  The whole thing seemed like particularly surreal dream.  But I spent a couple of days with a girl before she jetted back to her home country.  The long distance relationship that followed either didn't trigger me or my subconscious wasn't able to make itself heard over text.  Who knows.
 
Well she's coming to live with me soon.  I'm scared but happy that she's coming.  I'm looking forward to letting myself feel love without any fear.
 
Healing has been long and hard, but I got here in the end.
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I lie to myself
I think its important to be real.  I do lie to myself about the abuse and despite the fact that nobody ever said this is a good thing I do believe it has been necessary.  Please don't misunderstand me I'm not suggesting that you start lying to yourself.  But the lies we tell ourselves can be there to protect us.  Unpicking the lies can be a difficult and even dangerous.

Before I go any further...
It is not your fault.  No matter how many layers of lies you've constructed it is not your fault.  You don't need to rush to find the truth. It's okay to let the lies be.  There is no rush to be brutally honest with yourself and confess.  You can rest in one very simple truth: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

Dangerous How?
It all depends on where the lie came from.  Did it come from C (my abuser) or did it come from me?  There's a mix of lies all fighting in my head and they can cause complete confusion.  I've talked before about the lies C caused but there are also lies I constructed.  Just after the abuse I was in such a breakdown that I did a lot of things without being conscious of them.  This is where I constructed protective; I changed memories so that they wouldn't portray me as "guilty".

And there's the problem.  I wasn't "guilty" but C had so effectively twisted my world view that I thought I was "evil" and "dangerous" and I blamed myself for everything that happened.  I couldn't find a way out they were lies.  So the only thing I could do was lie more to myself.  It was never a healthy way to exist but it was more healthy than the breakdown.

As twisted as it all was the lies formed some sort of balance.

What were the Lies?
I don't want to be specific here.  Even in anonymity I can't talk without shame.  But  the lies of in the form "C told me to" do something.  The truth is that he rarely told me to do anything. C manipulated me to do things.  The lie that "he told me to" helps protect me from thinking that it was my fault and saves me being confused over the manipulation.  But that same lie makes it impossible to heal.  I have to come to terms with what really happened and not simply what I pretend happened.

How to Stop Lying to Myself
This is hard.  I've always known where my own lies are.  The challenge is unpicking them without unbalancing, without blaming myself.  I have to unpick several lies together.  It's a little like the way a cardboard box can be closed by closing all four sides overlapping each other and it holds itself shut.  The sides have to be closed together, it can't be done one at a time.  Okay it's more like opening a box but the same image applies.

The quickest way through has been to hear "It's not your fault" in response to the truth.  It felt needy the first time like I was practically begging my therapist say it.  But I did need it.  I needed someone to know exactly what happened and still think it wasn't my fault.  And for it to be real, for it to have any meaning, my therapist had to know the truth otherwise: what's the point?

Telling my therapist was a massive leap of faith.  I had to trust in the simple statement "I was abused" and hope that telling the truth wasn't going to change that.  I had to speak about things mechanically and completely disconnected to avoid triggering and I had to avoid even thinking about who was to blame.  It was worth it.  The pay off was an enormous release that made me cry.

Don't Rush It
These lies are there to protect us.  If you're not ready to explore memories in this way then just trust in the truth.  It is not your fault.
 

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Triggerd
Pounding pressure on my chest hands shaking and barely able to get a word out.  And all of this because I tried to say that I kissed my abuser.

I went to therapy knowing I wanted to talk about this new memory.  Its a small memory, yes, but in context it’s so surreal and disturbing.  I tried to talk about it.  I failed.  My therapist still doesn’t know what I wanted to talk about.

I was talking quite calmly up to that point and not feeling emotional at all but then my body just lost control.  I tried to talk around it, I tried changing the subject completely but nothing worked.  Something inside had triggered and it wanted to be heard.

The Conflict
My therapist (who’s been awesome over the months) helped me break it down and figure out where the internal conflict was:  Two forces at odds with one another.  One wanted the memory to be heard, to be talked about and to be understood feeling that it was being ignored and shouting with everything it had to be taken notice of.  And other which was scared I was going to lose control, forget who I am, fighting as hard as it could to hold on to “the real me”.

But neither of these were triggering my nervous system.  When I find what’s causing me to trigger I can calm it down.  Even having explained to my therapist what was going on my nervous system on fire and nothing would touch it.

This is Real
The thought pinned me to my seat.  I’d been struggling to believe the memory even after I began to write about it as “fact”.  This triggering showed me that my subconscious knew the memory was real no matter how uncertain I may have been. 

I think this memory was so hard to connect with because at the time it happened I was in complete disbelief of what was happening and so out of control that C could have made me do anything he wanted without me realizing it was him making me do it.

When something in me tried to push this memory forward screaming at me to take notice of it, the memory itself was saying “I don’t exist”.  And when I tried to keep control of myself while thinking about it, the memory was saying “you don’t know who you are”.

Looking on the Bright Side
I may have been unable to talk about the things I’d wanted to but I am glad to have unpicked another little lie.  It feels good to have remembered what happened and believed it.  I’m happy to say that contrary to the feeling in the memory “This did happen” and “I am still me!

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Trigger Warning
I’m going to be blunt in this one.  Specifically about psychological abuse and about rape.

Background
Psychological abuse was far worse for me than the physical side.  I wasn’t touched by my abuser.  Well not that I can remember… um sort of… I’m still a bit confused about that.  Anyway I was forced to do things in front of my abuser (“C” - a 53 year old man) and with my girlfriend of the time (V).

I repressed the memories for years and I think this was because I behaved totally out of character.  C’s control over me was so complete that the memories are dream where actions make no sense.  So talking about this is difficult.  I have to stay factual and not get caught on explaining "why".  I have to admit believing the most laughable lies. I have to admit doing what my abuser told me to do, even days later.  He had absolute control over me.

Truth and Lies buried Beneath in Too Much of ****
The control started with lies hidden in long conversations.  We talked for hours and hours on all sorts of subjects.  As the years have gone on, it’s been the lies and admissions of guilt that remained with me and the rest has faded away.  Its like the heap of gravel and mud left after a giant snowball melts.  Now when I talk about it, the lies seem so obvious.   But at the time they were so well hidden, just like gravel in a giant snowball.

C found ways to make us (me and V) believe that one of the planets in our solar system is spinning the wrong way, that iron shouldn’t sink to the centre of the earth, that the earth was built by aliens and that if me and V carried on our relationship without his help we would hurt each other.  One of these stands out as different from the others, but explaining the rotation of Venus is off topic for this blog. Somehow C buried very sinister and damaging lies right in plain view.  But we didn't notice.

He also hid sinister truths in plain view.  He told us he liked 16-17 year olds because our minds were easily manipulated yet we were free from our parent’s protection.  He told us that his friend “S” was special because he found people [by hanging round the school gates].  He told us that he was changing our relationship to be reliant on him.  He told me he was shutting down parts of my personality [hypnosis]. He told V that he was disappointed when she went out with me and he told V that in payment for his help he wanted herBut we didn't notice.

Why Didn’t I run?  Why Didn’t I Try to Escape?
Because we believed the lie. We needed his help.  And every lie from there built on it and reinforced it:

  • He told us he would abandon us if we didn’t do what he said without question.  He made us beg him not to leave us thus reinforcing the lie that we needed him.
  • He told us that others wouldn’t understand and we needed to listen to him over anyone else
  • he told us we mustn’t have any sexual contact without him there to watch – using and reinforcing the lie about danger.
  • he told us we had to hurt one another
  • he told me to think of a way to break V.
  • When what I told him wasn’t enough he told me I would have to R her [in front of him]. I’m very glad to say I never did.

Believing we were dangerous gave him enormous control.  He told me I would need to R her and I still thought he was trying to help, I even thought that it was my fault and that somehow I’d made him suggest it.  He’d made me believe I was evil.  Somehow I managed to refuse.  So he broke contact altogether [abandoning me] and told V the same lie: that I would R her.  She must have seen the feeling of guilt all over my face.  I still thought it was my fault.  I still thought I was evil.  And V believing it only reinforced it.

Lasting effects
I got out and V didn't.  But I couldn’t tell anyone what happened or why I was suffering or why V was in danger.  When I thought I was that kind of evil how could I tell my parents or the police or my councillor or my friends?  I just bottled it up and tried hard to move on.  I tried to hide who I was from the world.  I tried to hide from myself.  I tried not to fall in love for fear I would hurt someone else.  Dissociation became the new normal.  And flashbacks confused and depressed me.

I still talk of “The Confusion” now: my subconscious tares at itself, trapped somewhere between believing I caused it all and hurt V and thinking I abandoned V when I got out. 15 years later, when I fall in love I still panic.  My subconscious screams “run away I’m dangerous”.  Somehow my subconscious finds a way to be heard.  It’s all just the abuse talking.

All I ever wanted was to love and be loved.

Healing Follows
Control was brutally destructive.  It has taken years before I had the courage to believe I could remember without thinking I was a monster.  Then more years to work through and find out what really happened.

But once again I will say that healing is now happening for me.  I’ve managed to uncover the truth behind C’s lies and I no longer [consciously] blame myself.  I know I never wanted to hurt anyone and I know I got out before C made me do something unforgivable.

I had a little win this week.  I danced and flirted at a party and didn't completely freak myself out.

I’m healing.

One step at a time.

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I'm struggling to write today.  I guess I'm feeling too good about life to be able to dwell on things.  Life is good and I'm doing really well.  The Confusion which has caused me so many problems lifted... at least for now. 

It seems it was built on a few lies which conflicted so heavily that I had to dissociate. There were so many triggers to these for so long that I was always in danger of being sucked into the middle of a storm of lies.

  • "He was really trying to help"
    C got control of me and V by convincing us we would hurt each other and we needed him helping us in our relationship together.  To talk about it now seems like such an obvious lie but somehow at the time this is what we both believed.  Even when I realised C was extremely dangerous I still couldn't dispel this myth about him... that he was trying to help all along.
  • "It was my fault - I'm evil"
    Of course he was trying to help because we were dangerous together. C had effectively convinced me I was a rapist despite the fact I was a virgin... convincing me that without his help this is exactly what I would become and convincing me that anything sexual was really my fault.
  • "I abandoned her, she's still in danger from him"
    I still feel this.  In truth I tried to save her.  It was V that left me and stopped talking after I tried to warn her about C.  But I always felt I should have gone back for her; I should have found a way to protect her.
  • "It's not right to mourn her loss"
    The first three forces were so strong that I never had chance to mourn loosing the girl I loved.  I wanted to find a way to rescue her. I blamed myself for her abuse.  The idea that I should think of my own selfish feelings for her was unthinkable.

The thing is sometimes I know what I am supposed to think and struggle to admit it when I don't.  For example we're told not to blame ourselves but I so frequently do.  I can try so hard to make myself believe it wasn't my fault that I dissociate to pretend it wasn't my fault.

With time these lies are starting to fade and I can remember what happened and not feel ashamed.  It's taken a lot more than time.  I've had to find the truth and I've had to understand what really happened.  But now sitting here now I'm doing alright.  It's been a good week.

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We English don't talk about Sex.  We're known for it.  I've only ever talked about it at length with two people:
  • V - The girl I fell in love with at 17
  • C - The old man who subsequently abused both me and V
 
So it's hard for me as an English man and a survivor to even type the word without getting nervous.  But it is a subject that is inevitably going to be difficult for many survivors.  There will be many different reasons for it to be difficult.
 
In my last two therapy sessions I've tried to talk about it, about the fears I have being in a sexually active relationship again.  In the first session it didn't do so well.  Sitting on a sofa with someone telling me "it's normal to feel these things" just reminded me too much of being 17, sitting on a sofa, and an old man telling me "it's normal to feel these things".  Nothing my therapist could do to tell me "this is a safe environment" could stop the alarm bells ringing.  Anything she did to make me feel more calm just made my subconscious scream louder that I was being manipulated.
 
But I do want to talk about it.  I want to express why it scares me so much and how I have begun to resolve that problem.  I had some more success in my last session. 
 
In talking about it I found I want to be adventurous with my girlfriend (as she has asked to be).  But I want to be safe.  C twisted my boundaries.  He wanted me to do some pretty disgusting things with V in front of him.  Frankly, he erased my boundaries in order to manipulate me.  It left my fantasies truly messed up.  So when I got out, after C, the only boundaries I could find were "avoid sex".  After that boundary, after consent, I feel so scared of what to do next.  I feel scared I might hurt my partner in some way.  As much as I want to trust my girlfriend to tell me when some-thing's wrong I can't really go into sex saying "by the way, I think I'm dangerous".
 
In all other areas of life I've been able to undo his brainwashing.  I've observed other people carefully and figured out a map of what is "normal" and "acceptable".  In the hardest cases I've simply asked people what was normal.  That is, I've re-learned to be me.
 
But when it comes to sex, its much more difficult.  All I've got is a 17 year old's memoires of a destroyed relationship, C's abuse and some pretty messed up relationships since.  How do you begin to build a map of what's normal with that?  It's not like pornography is going to give any idea of "normal" or even "acceptable".
 
Dating J for the past few months has helped.  It seems that finding the right person has been important.  We began very simply.  Very un-adventurous.  J didn't ask me what my fantasies are and when she's tried since I've gently but firmly avoided the question.  She's since told me she wants to try new things and doesn't really know what to try.  She wants me to come up with some ideas and that's where I'm being ultra careful.  Under no circumstance do I want what we do to be influenced by C and I know that my fantasies are still messed up.  So for the moment I'm able to come up with a few ideas and keep things a very long way from anything C ever talked about or tried to make me do.
 
I know there will come a time when there is an overlap between what happened with C and what we do now.  But I'm working on building a map that starts with "vanilla" and works out from there.  Hopefully I can re-inforce that map enough so that when things become more "interesting" I don't find myself slipping into flashbacks during sex.
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Return to Reality

Trigger. Contains reference to sex (but only in a positive way).
 
Looking back I was in so much pain. I could hold it together for only a few hours each day before breaking down. And nothing I could do, nothing could make me better. I stayed awake for hours because I was too scared to sleep. But then after sleep was like "waking from Nightmares only to realise the real world is no better." Thanks to Susanne Collins for that Phrase.
 
Day after day I fell apart. I didn't know what had happened and I still couldn't comprehend the evil he had done. His words didn't yet feel poisonous and his lies were still truth to me. I latched onto one of his Phrases: "survive in the lifeboat". Somehow I found a way; I found my own lifeboat. I dismantled myself and packaged the pieces; I packed them into little boxes all neatly stowed under the seats of my lifeboat.  This felt peaceful.
 
After doing this I no-longer felt like I was seeing the world through my own eyes. I experienced the world through recent memories, but always stayed detached in my own separate world. I regret this now, but then, did I really have a choice? The real world was pain. When friends tried to make me engage with the world it felt like they were attacking me, making me hurt.  Anything and anyone who dragged me back into the world became an enemy.  I grew distant from my parents and family.  I made friends with those who were just as distant as I was.
 
This got me through life in a way. I scraped through university but even then fell apart at the end when, having found a girl who loved me, I began to be sucked out of my dream land and back to the real world. I fell apart again and nearly failed my degree. That felt important so I went back to my own world, let the relationship fall apart, and completed my degree.
 
So here I am; It's now fifteen years later and I'm looking back. A few years ago my dream world fell apart.  The real world broke through and the dream was gone for good. I've spent nearly two years unpacking "boxes" and piecing everything back together. Times when I meet old friends from that time are strange. Pieces-of-me still think I only saw these friends six months ago. How do I explain how important they had been to me?  They were important at the time. And how do I explain why I'm only just feeling this now?
 
I'm now in a relationship. No wait. I'm now engaged to be married in a few months. I've had sex with my fiancé. And in the weeks just gone I've had sex while still completely grounded.  That is, the last part of me is now restored.  I'm whole.  Completely whole.  In counselling yesterday I realised this is the first time for me to be totally grounded while being sexually active since right before the abuse. I remember now just how powerful that had been with V. Every sound, sent and touch connected right to my consciousness. Nothing to be afraid of and nothing to hurt me.
 
I loved V more than I can put into words. Those times with her were special to me. Nothing that happens now will ever overwrite that. And now my life can finally be fulfilled in that way with (and more) with someone I love as much and much more. This is where I finally can leave the memory of V behind. In that room, and in those happy memories. I hope V has found piece as I have.
 
And J. I love you. I can't tell you how happy you have made me. I can't put into words how excited I am to be your husband.
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Remembering

"I don’t remember"
Three simple words which made me break down whilst talking to my therapist (M) last week.  M has been great over the past six months.  I’ve got further with her and healed more than with anyone else.  I’ve been reconnecting to a large number of memories from my childhood before the abuse happened.  I’ve been stabilising emotionally and talking about my abuser and different aspects of the abuse.  So imagine M’s confusion when I told her “I don’t know if I was abused or not”.  I was in bits sobbing my eyes out because the words “I don’t remember” felt more like “I made it all up”.

I didn’t forget either.  I never knew.
What I knew after the abuse in 2001 was not enough.  The handful of memories I had were very misleading.  The rest were already lost in The Confusion.  Actually what I did know back then made me look pretty awful and my abuser look like some knight in shining armour.  But that’s another story.  Needless to say I have suffered for years and not known what was wrong with me. 

So how did I find out?
Somewhere around 2007 I saw something on TV which described the effects on victims.  I related so much to it while blaming myself so much I actually wondered if it is possible to cause those symptoms yourself… if it is possible to abuse yourself.  Dismissing that as silly I didn’t really think about it again until in 2013 I read the Hunger Games (Suzann Collins).  I connected with the “Victors” so readily and when somewhere in the third book (Mockingjay) it became clear that there is a connection between “Victors” and abuse “survivors” I realised I needed understand.  I read a bunch of different pages on abuse, child abuse and abuse against men trying to find anything that seemed to apply to me.  Some did, but a lot didn't.

In 2014 I joined the After Silence forums and once again found myself connecting.  When described from victim's a perspective and not from a psychologist's perspective; PTSD and related illnesses made much more sense.  I still didn't know if what happened to me was abuse or not.  I could barely remember it.  After weeks of braving The Confusion I managed to get a series of bullet points down on paper.  Then posting these bullet points on the AS forums I asked what these all meant.  Being told I was abused made me cry with relief.  Thank You my friends.  I don’t know why I never said it properly before.  Thank You.

So I know what happened now?
Yes and no.  The trouble with these memories is that The Confusion still has them.  It’s difficult to describe this horrible dark place in my mind.  I sometimes think of getting lost in The Confusion is like getting lost in a forest where the trees keep moving around.  I’ve built my whole life outside and around the edges of this forest but entering it is still dangerous.  Getting lost can leave me locked in depression for weeks.  Worse, getting lost can let the trees take over the clear space surrounding called “my life”.  Trying to follow the thread of these memories is also dangerous.  It’s like blindly following a butterfly into the middle of this same evil maze-like forest.  These memories flutter by but I mustn’t follow them. 

To avoid constantly blundering into The Confusion I tell myself little white lies like “I know I was abused”. All I have is the question I wrote on After Silence forums and its responses. I know every word of what I wrote is true when I re-read it.  I know all those who read it tell me I was abused (even sometimes I tell myself when I read it).  But the memories don’t stick, the idea feels alien and ultimately the whole thing slides back into The Confusion.  I just have to trust that what was true yesterday is still true today. I was abused.

 

My little win for the week:
I re-read my original AS question.  I got three quarters of the way through calmly remembering what happened without triggering.  The last quarter made me cry a lot and it took me an hour to calm down.  But this is progress, big progress.  I even remember some of what I read!

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Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a teenage boy who fell in love with a girl his age.  He was too shy to tell her how he felt but became friends with her.  He loved the colour of her eyes, the way she smiled, the way she beat him at chess mercilessly.

As they grew up they went their separate ways and for a year after school didn’t see one another.  After the first year of college the boy called the girl up and got chatting.  He found out she now had a boyfriend.  Jokingly he said “so who do I have to be jealous of?”.  Something in the silence that followed told him everything he needed to know; that she had felt the same way about him and had wanted there to be more between them.  The two met up,  they were totally in love and started going out together (now both seventeen).  Intimacy came very slowly.  She told him she couldn’t have sex because of the abuse she’d suffered.  This didn’t matter to the boy; he was from a “straight laced” Christian family and the subject of sex was one he was happy to leave alone for a long time.  He loved her.

Then one day the girl introduced the boy to an old man she’d met in the year they’d been apart.  This old man seemed to be a fatherly figure and one who somehow took place of her own father.  They talked and talked about anything and everything from science to religion to philosophy to sexual fantasies.

Here in our story we have to take a step back from the detail because the old man abused the two of them forcing them to do things while he watched and trying to make them do much worse than they ever did.  Needless to say it destroyed the relationship.  The abuse involved such extreme brainwashing that neither of them really knew what they were doing.  Even when the boy tried to break free of the control he didn’t know what he was escaping from.  And the girl… well she was last seen walking naked down the street at the old man's command and nobody knows if she ever got out from his control.

All the boy knew was that the girl of his dreams, the only one he’d ever loved was taken from him and somehow he blamed himself simply not knowing what really happened.  He broke down.  Not totally but repeatedly.  Time and again he forgot who he was while inexplicable memories would twist his nightmares.  Over and again he had to reinvent himself because the memories would surface and destroy his self image.

More than a decade later our boy, now a man began to collect these memories together and at last could see what had cause so much pain in his life.  As he began to work at it the memories they became clearer and more coherent.  Piece by piece he worked out what had happened, who he’d been before and all the re-invented versions of himself since.

So now there’s me.  Too many version’s of me to know which one’s the right one.  I guess for now I’ll be the one who can remember and not break down.  I’ll feel the love I felt for her so deeply and hope that somehow she got out, hope she is somewhere safe now.  I hope that tomorrow I can be someone who can love without feeling the loss.  I hope there is someone out there who can accept that I’m more than just one person, accept that I will love them with all the versions of me.

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Not Feeling Great

I'm seeing my therapist again tomorrow.

Its been a few weeks since I last did because she has been away on holiday.  When we last met I was doing really well and I thought might not need therapy again.  Three weeks later I 'm wondering how I'm going to make it through the 22 hours to our session.  Everything has built up like a pressure cooker that's had its valve opened.  Without being able to talk I suddenly feel like the valve is closed and things are building up.

I think I went too far and let too many memories come out this time.  My abuser did so much to brainwash me and in the last couple of days I've been getting flashbacks where I believe his lies again.  That's just scary.  It's screwing with the way I see the world, right from making me think my friends are out to get me through to completely screwing with my sex drive.

I know my T will ask me what I think triggered it all.  The biggest thing to happen I've already talked about on this blog.  I got the memory back of kissing my abuser and it still makes my skin crawl just mentioning it again now.  Yuk.  That left me numb for a couple of weeks.  Numbness always catches me without me noticing it.  It happens when I've triggered over something and it can (and has) lasted a couple of weeks.  I only notice it when I start feeling again.  Reconnecting with my feelings is like waking up.  Or perhaps like that moment you realise you don't know why you went upstairs.  I find myself in an odd state of mind and can't work out how I got there and then every thing comes rushing in and I can see, taste, smell everything suddenly very vividly.

So yeah.  That's been messing with me for a couple of days now and I'm struggling to work out which way is up.

I'm sure I'll be okay soon. Just a bit confused right now.

 

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A new memory has been haunting me.  The memory is of kissing my abuser on the lips.  I've had a curiosity with homosexuality but this was not one of them.  I remember him saying that it didn't mean I was gay.  This was so wrong for the way I behaved back then that I couldn't believe the memory was real at first.

I remember another time discussed the idea of someoe being submissive and holding a hot cup of coffee so that it burned their hands.  The next thing I knew V (the girl i was abused with) was there with a fresh made cup kneeling beside him and he was telling her exactly what posture to have while kneeling.  He never actually told her to do it, just dropped the idea into conversation and the next thing she was doing it.

This memory of kissing him was very similar.  I don't think he told me to do it.  He just dropped the idea while talking and the next thing I know I was there face to face with him going in for a kiss.  He manipulated me to do worse things, but this one haunts me as it's one of two memories of physical contact with him.  It creeps me out and makes me feel unclean.  I don't understand what I was thinking.

I hate the fact that it's taken fifteen years to remember this happening.  I hate the control he had over me.  I hate the fact that he's screwed up my love life ever since as I can't fall in love without worrying it will drive me insane.  No wonder I freak out at kissing when this has been buried for so long.

I spoke to my friend (B) about some of the effects this kiss had on me without telling him what the "physical contact" was.  It's a big step. I don't talk to anyone other than my therapist.  B knows the most of any of my friends but I've still barely scratched the surface in any detail.  Even telling him this obscure detail there was a moment when I thought I was going to lose it and slip into my alternate personality.  I'm glad I held it together so the clock stands at six months since I last switched:yahoo:.

It seems so strange to think that I've only known I was abused for a couple of years.  It was even stranger when, talking to my therapist, I realised I'd never spoken about it out loud in fifteen years.  I'd tried to talk so many times over the years and failed every time.  I'd also tried to write it down but I didn't understand what had happened. That's why writing here has become such a big step for me. Being able to write down what happened helps make it all real for me and less like a bad dream.  It helps me stop forgetting that it actually happened.

As big as the step today is, I'm spiraling down.  I've got work tomorrow and want to be ready for a normal day.  I guess the best thing for me is sleep and to hope tomorrow brings a better mood.

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I though I was doing so well
I see it on the forums and I hear it from so many fellow survivors.  I've said it myself enough times to loose count.  In the early days after abuse it's hard to think about recovery but we begin to notice ...
...I made it though another day...
...I made it through a day with only a couple of breakdowns...
...I didn't breakdown today at all.
 
These little things help give us hope.  They show us that we're on the mend and they show us we're not always going to hurt this much.  As time passes we think about recovery as a series of achievements...
...Today I passed my exams...
...Today I got a job...
...Today I was with my [girl / boy] friend and didn't freak out...
 
But no matter how much we think we have healed, there are times we find ourself slipping down that ladder so fast we wonder "Was I imagining it? Have I really healed at all?"  If you are in that place right now then let met tell you, without even knowing you...
 
You are doing much better than you feel
If you need medical help or therapy or just someone to talk to then please get help.  But as you do don't lose that hope you've built up.  Relapses, bad days, bad months and complete crashes, whatever name you give them they happen to every survivor.  They can be caused by anything from a death in the family to a relationship breakup.  Perhaps the hardest relapses to accept are the ones caused by nothing at all.  
 
The way I see it, abuse left a huge crater in my life with me stuck in the middle.  The long road to recovery hasn't meant that the crater disappeared  it's just meant that I've learned to climb out of craters.  In the early days after the abuse it was like measuring how far up the wall I could climb.  Now its like measuring how quickly and easily I climb out.
 
What this looks like for me
In November I was given a fairly unique opportunity to compare like for like.  That is I had a really tough November 2016 which was tragically similar to November 2015:
  • My Grandfathers were diagnosed with terminal cancer
  • I was in two motor bike crashes
  • I went through a rough patch with my girlfriend (then and now)
 
In reality I hit the same low both years.  This year I had the added fear of history repeating itself.  But then I began to notice that this year things were very different:
  • I went numb at the news of my grandfather but it lasted only two days instead of two weeks
  • It felt right to be low after the news and not like I was loosing it.
  • The rough patch with my girlfriend was tough but I didn't freak out
 
Where am I now?
Progress is hard and slow.  It's taken me fifteen years to recover this far and I envy those who get there faster.  But with time and therapy I've really managed process what happened all those years ago.  I know there will be bad days and relapses again; but I also know I will handle them.
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It's Time to Talk

Where do I start?  Where do I start?  The words don't come easily today.

I'm planning to talk to the police. 
The thought of it stifles every word I try to find.  Every word is stolen away before I can speak or write it down.

I've been dong so well in talking to my therapist I'd almost forgotten that I've not talked to anyone else. I'd forgotten how difficult talking is.  This is the same silence that struck me dumb right after the abuse.  I'd tried to talk back then: to my parents, to my friends, to the police, but I was completely unable to find the words.  I tried to write it down so many times but couldn't get so much as half a sentence.  I didn't understand what had happened to me so that even if I had been able to talk I wouldn't have been able to tell them what C did.

My therapist suggested I talked to the police at our last session and I like the idea.  This will be a way for me to start making this real and not just some horrible nightmare that I talk about.

So what's the problem talking now?
I don't really know.  I keep hitting a wall.  I like the idea in principle but every time I try to take any action towards actually speaking the police I trigger.  There is some part of me that's been fighting for so long to be heard, "shouting in silence", and the idea of it actually being heard, the idea of me acknowledging "yes this really happened" triggers me every time.

Never the less I will be talking to the police.  I've made up my mind. I want this.

Maybe if I make a list of the things I need to do it will help me...

To be able to talk I need to:

  • Set a Date
    Putting a date on going to the police will help me by forcing me to make progress with other things.  Otherwise I know I'll just put it off again like I have done for the past two years.
     
  • Find someone to take me
    I can't do on my own or I'll have a meltdown.  I need someone to take me to the police station with me, someone who can look after me if I break down.  That's going to be tough because the only friends who know what happened aren't the really emotional type and I'm nervous about them seeing me in a state.
     
  • Write Down what happened
    I'm planning to have my statement written before I get to the police station and take a typed copy with me.  Even if they want me to talk it will give me something to focus on to help me keep it together.  I've tried starting this already but that's making me trigger so I'll need to talk to my therapist about it and get some help.
     
  • Warn work.
    I don't know how severe the after effects are going to be so I'll need to tell work what's going on before hand.  That's going to be a fun conversation with a manager that has no clue there is even anything wrong.

I need to take this slowly
This is simple.  It's easy.  It's nothing I've not already talked about.  It scares me.

I feel like there's been some little voice inside me that's been screaming in silence for fifteen years.  Like a TV on mute.

There's some force like a blanket of silence that hits me every time I try to let the little voice be heard. That force wants to keep me silent so much that it may silence me all together and strike me dumb again.  I have to take this slowly so that I don't get overwhelmed.

Progress is like this sometimes
I've come so far that I can now speak out.  I can talk to the police.  But it isn't easy.

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I kissed him

I talked!
On Friday I finally managed to tell my therapist that I kissed my abuser.  I'm sorry I keep obsessing over this one.  I guess it's just shaken me a lot.  Talking about it helped it to feel real.  There's some part of me that has been shouting in silence for fifteen years and it's a relieved to have now been heard.  I guess it hit me hard because I've not had any new memories return for a number of years and I'd forgotton how potent they can be.  Sure I've had a bunch of revalations more recently as a good deal more detail returned but nothing really new.  Well nothing if you exclude that weird non-sexual (:unsure:?) one of him touching my knee.

My point is that this one got the jump on me.  No other memory warned me of this one and for fifteen years I didn't know that I had physical contact with him in this way.

This memory is sketchy but my body remembers
When I first tried to tell my therapist about it (and failed) I was perfectly calm and coherent and able to talk.  But as I started to speak my voice cracked, my chest began pounding and I started shaking.  Emotionally I felt peceful and calm but my body was overwhelmed.  I've had doubts about wether the memory was real but my body really had no doubt what so ever.  Then when I managed to talk on Friday I found it less like remembering and more like re-living.  My eyes kept trying to refocus on his face like I was back in that room with him and not in 2015 with my therapist.  As I talked I could feel his mustache on my top lip.  I hadn't even remembered he had a mustache until I felt it again on Friday (gross :()!

This memory has been dangrous
It has bled through before now, giving me pictures of kissing other men and confusing my sexuality.  When I try to recall it now and try to work out what I was feeling at the time, I feel myself being pulled into his way of thinking.  It confuses me and scares me.  I was a teenager of 17 and was impressionable, egre to try new experiences.  Was this just another thing I was exploring?  (me a 17 year old strait boy, him a 53 year old man).  It's lke whatever brainwashing or hypnoses he controlled me with is still there frozen in that memory, waiting to jump out and drag my personality away leaving only him.  And that's been what I've been fighting with - trying to stay myself while at th same time remembering what he made me be.

I'm scared that there may be more
The very existance of this memory scares me.  I'm scared there might be something more than i don't know about.  I don't have the energy to waste on a wild goose chaise hunting for it but I wonder what else I burried for so long just like this memory

 

Nothing majorly positive to say this week. Though I think I may be ready to talk to my family about stuff.  It would be nice if they knew.

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It’s dangerous for me to remember what I want to talk about.  On Friday I lost time during therapy.  I spent an hour there and I only remember about ten minutes.

What I “knew” when I was seventeen was wrong:

I didn’t think there was anything sexual going on when we met C.  What he’d done was to play chess and teach us his own peculiar brand of psychology.  He used it to predict what we’d do.  He’d taught us we were in danger without him. He’d taught us we were dangerous without him.  We were the one’s who’d done things in front of him.  He’d taught us we were Evil.

It was my mum that got me out.  It doesn’t matter what you see first: a tooth, a claw or a tail.  When you see it’s a wolf dressed as a sheep, you know it’s a wolf.  No amount of bleating will change it back.  What my mum said didn’t change a single thing except I couldn’t deny that C had made me strip naked while he watched.  I still believed he was trying to help and I still believed I was dangerous.  But you can’t change a wolf into a sheep.

I knew I couldn’t convince V.  I knew that like me she believed we were dangerous together.  I knew that C wouldn’t allow me to get out without retribution and I knew I’d lose her.  I had no choice.  I failed.  I lost her.

How did I feel to be Seventeen?

Alone.  I became locked in for months trying to find any way I could protect her, looking for any way to get her out.  It was obsessive but I couldn’t abandon her.  I feel like my subconscious is still trying to solve that problem even now; looking for any way to save her.  Yet at seventeen all of this was in conflict with the fact I thought I was evil.

How did I feel to be Seventeen?

Struck dumb.  I wanted to talk about what had happened but couldn’t speak a word.  I tried over and over.  I tried to talk to the police and couldn’t find a single thing to tell them.  I tried to talk to a therapist for over six months.  I tried to write it down but could barely get to the second sentence.  I could talk about C’s own brand of psychology, but I couldn’t speak of the evil things it predicted we’d do.  I could talk about C’s dislike of religion, but I couldn’t talk about what we did in front of him.  This is the heart of The Confusion I’ve spoken about before.  This was the silence that overwhelmed me.

Last week I remembered what this silence felt like and it overwhelmed me again.  There’s a link in everything I couldn’t speak of and in everything I couldn’t remember.  Whenever I tried to talk about what C did it came out as “I am evil”.  I was so afraid these three words would escape my lips that I couldn’t speak at all.

And even here now, posting on AS, it’s the same phrase that threatens to creep out from my subconscious.

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"You can't heal while triggered"
M said this the first time we met and I didn't know how to react.  Frightened it might mean I would never heal.  Irritated I was being stopped from talking.  Confused at the idea I could engage with my issues and not cry, shiver and space out.  In fact the idea I could talk without triggering seen coldly out of touch with reality.  I'd seen many therapists before M but she is the first to stop me mid flow, mid sentence if she has to and always when she thinks I am triggering.  It seems she regards triggering as a waste of time at best and completely destructive at worst.

This was heavily out of sync with my own experiences.  Triggering felt like extreme emotion sad, angry, scared, lonely, confused and lost.  Remembering the past had always come with these emotions and always to the point I lose control.  M told me I needed to engage with the memories without triggering and this just sounded like I was being told to be numb and distant while remembering.  How could I possibly heal without feeling?

So how was M right?
First off I wasn't being asked to heal without feeling.  I wasn't being asked not to feel at all; quite the opposite.  You see triggering feels like emotion but in practice it's much closer to numbness.   The difference is so subtle yet it separates polar opposites.  The difference is so subtle that at first I couldn't understand it and even now I struggle to explain it. 

I've been trying to think of analogies to explain this and nothing quite fits but there are a few which are close.  The difference between feeling and triggering is like the difference between:

  • loud music vs a stereo turned up so loud it just distorts
  • a picture with many colours vs so much paint there's just a muddy mess
  • cold hands vs hands so cold they are numb
  • a deer being scared and running away vs a deer frozen in the headlights
  • the feeling of hot water vs scolding water feeling ice cold in the first moment

Over time in our sessions M has kept me from triggering. And despite the fact that I couldn't get near memories of the abuse at first I now have been able to speak calmly about the past.  Despite speaking calmly I really feel the sadness, anger, fear, loneliness and confusion that's attached to these memories.  That difference has been magical.

Have I Healed?
There's a long way to go yet but I've come a very long way in the last six months.  I've been able to talk about what happened and remember what happened more clearly.  The Confusion I've been struggling with for so many years is beginning to clear.  I'm struck by how useful it's been to find a therapist who understands working with trauma and specifically sexual abuse.  Therapists I've seen previously have dealt with depression etc. but PTSD and dissociative conditions need some specialist understanding.

It makes such a difference to be able to feel without fear.
 

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Dear V

Dear V

I find it's the simplest things that are the most powerful.  In the summer of 2001 we went to a town show.  You bought me a birthday card not for my birthday but for the picture on the front; some dolphins swimming through space.  You saw the joke from Douglas Adams: the few survivors from earth included dolphins. You handed to me with the simple words "The dolphins left by their own means".  It made me smile.

I feel I abandoned you.  I failed to convince you C was dangerous.  And I know C made it impossible for you to talk to me after I tried.  But I should have found a way to go back for you.  I should have found some way to protect you, the one I loved, from him.  I still worry that C is hurting you even now.

I found that card recently still in its plastic wrapper as you gave it to me.  I've framed it and hung it on the wall and hope that maybe you got out by your own means.

I hope you're safe V.

I miss you.

 

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Coping Technique

I wanted to share an odd coping technique that I found helpful when I get depressed and particularly when I realise I’m not functioning.

Sometimes when I go down with depression I find that I start procrastinating and become unable to do even very simple tasks.  It feels like I’m sinking beneath a mountain of stuff that has got out of control and the worse it gets the more I find I can’t do anything so the problem gets worse and spirals out of control.

At these times I’ve found that writing a “concern list” is very helpful.

The Technique
This is very simple yet very effective.  What I do is to write down everything and anything that is on my mind.  I literally make a list that includes everything I need to do that day alongside triggered memories haunting me alongside friends I need to catch up with.  The list is very flexable but does have some rules:

  1. It contains everything I need to remember or find I can’t forget even if I wanted to.
  2. I never put elaborate descriptions on (one word or name is often enough).  Writing it should never trigger me more than I already am.
  3. Items are never repeated.  No matter how big an issue is, it’s still just one point on the list.

It makes a very odd list but it really helps.  So for me this can look like this:

  • Take shower
  • Put Trash out
  • Fix bathroom sealant
  • C was a psychopath who hurt me.
  • Go for cycle ride
  • Talk to Jenny
  • V might still be under C’s control.
  • Buy Eggs
  • Talk to James
  • Holiday plans

What this technique does is to dig me out of the crippling inability to function day to day.

When I’ve dealt with something I cross it off (just like a todo list).  Actually its quite an important point... the list is never just "big stuff" that I can't do anything about.  If I write down everything I can feel that I've got everything down on the page.  That then lets me see when I'm getting little things sorted, even if they are just little.

What I find is that instead of memories of C stopping me getting out the house to buy eggs, I find I can go to the shops because it’s on my list.  It doesn’t matter that some things will linger around for a long time.  Crossing off the small things is always mildly pleasing and lets me feel less crushed by life.  Keeping the most major issues as just one bullet point puts things back in some kind of perspective.

 

I thought this might be useful to someone.

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A New Relationship

I've taken a break from writing for a while.  I've been uncertain how to continue without breaking my golden rule: Anonymity.  When I first joined After Silence I was so afraid to speak about myself that I picked a name which conveyed nothing about myself "00000000".  Actually it conveyed two things... It conveyed the fact I like computers and it conveyed they way I thought of myself... "null", "nothing", "zero".
 
Over the past few months my experiences have been so unique that I haven't dared talk about them for fear of being recognised.  Other events from the past few months have been spoken about in previous posts but today I wanted to talk a little about J.  She came into my life so unexpectedly.  She has become an integral part of my life so quickly that I find it hard to imagine life without her.  But anonymity must be kept so I apologise for the following censorship.
 
We met at a wedding in [country]. Actually we completely missed meeting each other at the wedding and met the day after as the only two who were still there but had no plans. She had the idea of going in search of the [unlikely fantasy object] and after a search on google we rented a car and drove half way across the country.  We found it and there were few of us there; only curious people who'd also been surprised to find such an unlikely object in the middle of an otherwise dull country.  She got tired and didn't want to drive at night so I drove her home and slept on her sofa.  The morning after we had breakfast and I saw her off at the airport.  Her travel plans took her to [my home country] after that so we met up again.  There things became intimate.  To put it bluntly we had sex.  Alright she had to ask me eight times "what do you want?" before I could be honest and ask to spend the night with her. You see this was the first time in years.  As it turned out it was the first time ever that I didn't trigger.  It was just natural

Having since met up with her in [country] and then her home in [country] our romance has now covered four countries and three continents.  Each time we meet sex has become easier. I'm discovering that she has a seriously naughty side.  That's something of a relief because it it was left to me to make the bedroom interesting I would definitely trigger.

And here's the thing I just can't get over.  I'm calm around her.  Calm in a way I've not felt about love since I was abused.  She makes me laugh and I make her laugh.  It just seems to happen for no reason.  We look at each other, tell each other off for being childish and then immediately both pull silly faces.  She understands what it is to have been hurt and can comfort me when I'm down.  But her experiences are different from mine so that when she goes down I can comfort her and not get dragged into my own flashbacks.
 
We talk on the phone every day and have not missed a day since we first met.  These things don't come easily for me.  I was single for eight years and the relationships I had before that only triggered me more.  It is a constant battle to keep my old self out, to keep the abuse from C well away from this relationship.  But so far, so goo.  And at last I feel happy in a relationship.
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A Long Month

Its been a while since I've written here.  I guess I've had too much going on and too much I didn't understand to be able to write about it.

Physically Trigged
A month ago I struggled with my subconscious becoming triggered.  I could be talking calmly when I realised my voice had cracked and my chest was pounding.  It was strange finding myself with all the physical symptoms of being overwhelmed, yet being totally calm and happy.  What's worse, these symptoms hit me while I was trying to date.  Just flirting with a girl I liked (E) caused me to physically shake.  E was fun to talk to.  She seemed to like me but somehow I couldn't bring myself to open up to her. 

This is no worse than previous attempts.  Actually, remaining calm and collected while flirting was a big improvement.  Every relationship I had since I was abused was tainted.  I was in love with the girl I was abused with.  I felt a terrible loss when when I got out and she didn't.  But worse than that, ever since, falling in love has felt like loosing control.  It's scared me so much.  It's felt like being brainwashed all over again; it's felt like my thoughts weren't my own.

EMDR
This month I've worked hard with my therapist to untangle these things; to remember what love was like before we were abused.  This has taken time.  My therapist has been trying EMDR with me (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  It's been really effective.  Even when the physical triggering has been overwhelming EMDR has calmed my body down.  Even when the triggering is completely subconscious EMDR has both calmed me down and allowed sad memories to come flooding back.  It has actually allowed me to remember my I am upset.  So it has taken me from shaking for no reason to crying for old memories.  I've written before about the difference between triggering and feeling and this is just the same.  For the first time I've been able to feel clearly how much I loved V and how pure that feeling had been.  For the first time I've seen that this pure love ran right through the abuse and nothing C did changed the way I felt about V.  C got in the way of us expressing love for each properly but I don't think it ever stopped either of us loving one another.

This breakthrough has been huge.  For the first time I can think of my relationship with V as pure and not associate it with the things C did.

Relationship Status
So about a month ago, things with E fizzled into nothing.  It was to be expected really but I was sad about it all the same.  It happened right before I travelled abroad to a friend's wedding.  Somehow it was well timed because at the wedding I met someone.  We spent three days just hanging out in a country that neither of us knew.  We went on a road trip together for the fun of it.  I was relaxed without triggering once.  I saw her off at the airport and we agreed to meet again.  Her next travel stop took her to England (my home country).  And then it happened.  I'm in a relationship.  All right its now a long distance relationship.  But I haven't triggered once.

For the first time since I was abused I'm in a relationship and not triggered!

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