PTSD – Re-experiencing The Trauma

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Yesterday, when I got back from my evening rounds, I saw a video still on my amazing human’s PC screen.  It was a paused youtube video, perfectly innocuous.  It was of two men.

One of them looked like It.

My stomach clenched and my mind went numb.  I avoided my gaze.  But it was like a trainwreck, my eyes were drawn back to It over and over again – the image was so horrifically like It that I went into full shut down (which looks like nothing more than I’m a bit more dazed than usual).  My mind blanked it.

I distracted myself and eventually fell asleep on the couch.  Later on, when my amazing human was ready to go to bed, he woke me and we went.  All was well.  We tucked in  and fell asleep.

Then the nightmares started.  It was there, in them, in my old home.  I was dealing with Its old cars.  The exacts of the dream are hazy now, I just remember keeping my amazing human hidden from It, It must never know, never meet my amazing human.  Play nice, play polite, simper, do all the things I used to do.  Scrape and bow, scrape and bow, do everything he asks, do everything he says, everything is okay, hide it all, hide my new life, don’t let him know…

It’s a mixture of reliving the abuse he visited on me and the fear of him … not ‘coming back’ but being near me, encroaching on my life that I have struggled and worked so fucking hard to build, and the positive and deep relationships I’ve built with my friends and family, and my amazing human being.

I’ve been feeling … not quite right all day.  The nightmare has been on my mind a lot.  I’ve been running it around my head, trying to make sense of it all, but all it seems to be doing is making me more out of sorts.  I’m hoping this is enough to get it out, and I can now rest, relax, and sleep a bit better tonight.  Ideally without It and the nightmares.

Processing Trauma In Dreams

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Dreams have long been touted as insights into your deep psyche, with a myriad of sites and experts claiming they can interpret your dreams and tell you … well, what you’re thinking, how your life is panning, and possibly even your future.

And it’s not all bollocks.

I’ll often find myself dreaming of spiders when I’m overly stressed.  Or that my car’s brakes don’t fully work – they sometimes slow the car down but never quite stop it, and sometimes they just don’t work at all – when I’m feeling like life has swept me up and I can’t slow down.

Last night I had a series of dreams.  There were five distinct ones.

In the first, I was loved and cherished, and I improved people’s lives by going full aspie on a water spirit who had people in its thrall (it’s not like there was a negative impact on them, just that they’d waste a lot of time in its thrall splashing around in its waters because it wanted the company).  It was so flattered that I was taking an unreasonably intense interest in what it was doing and what it was that it stopped the thrall and we sat and talked for hours and it realised it liked conversation more than splashy company.

The second one involved a frisbee, a stolen prototype helicopter, monster robots and a toy world warehouse.  There was a lot of screaming from me, and a lot of very creative piloting (of the suddenly small enough to fit between toy boxes and through open-backed shelving helicopter).

The third involved bears.  I couldn’t get the door shut and locked, and there were bears.  I finally got the door shut and locked properly (it required a huge shove and a perfectly timed key turn), then ran around making sure all the windows and doors were locked and the blinds were pulled so they couldn’t see in.  This was actually related to a conversation about Alaska and Canada and the bears and the fact that I won’t be able to go tramping out there without a big fuckoff gun because bears.

The fourth and fifth … well I’m not entirely sure which order they came in.  One involved It.  I’m starting to realise that a lot of Its behaviour, especially around sex, was abusive.  In this dream I told It he could take his blue balls and wank off, I wasn’t responsible for it.

The other … the other I’ve just realised is me speaking back about my sexual abuse to my abuser.  It and Thing (as that person will now be known) are two different people.  Very similar people, but definitely two different ones.  They were, in fact, best friends.  They suited each other well.  Both were self absorbed, showed little empathy for others, and were largely sexist.  They joked, they said they were joking, but their actions always said otherwise.

Mind you, I never realised this until this year.

So this part of my dream.  This final, crucial part of my dream.  I was at work.  I wasn’t at my current work, I was somewhere else … not entirely sure where, but I was in an office and I was working.  There was a loud male colleague over the other way, a real jokester, and he’d leer at me.  I got up to do some work at one of the benches.  He got up and came past and stood behind me as he reached for the printing next to me and ground his crotch against me.

This is what Thing did.  At parties we had at our house, he would get drunk and then pester me to give me a massage because he “gives great massages” and later because I “loved his massages”.  I’d already been conditioned by It to agree, to do what I was asked to do, to do what I was told and to not make a scene.  I’d inevitably agree.  We’d then go to the room I shared with It, I would lie face down on the bed, he’d insist I take my top off and try to convince me to take my bra off (that one never worked), and he’d give me a massage.  The first few were actually really great massages.  It was only later that he started to press his erection (in pants) against my ass and rub while giving me a massage.  I would wait a few minutes (so as not to be rude, how laughable) and then say ‘that’s great, thanks Thing’, and I’d put my top back on and we’d go.  Much later, he’d grab me by the waist during parties and sit me on his lap and grind his erection against my ass.  I’d escape pretty quickly then.

He breathed heavily.  I still panic when there is a male heavy breather around.

So back to the dream.  This ‘colleague’ ground his crotch against my arse and then sauntered back to his desk with his printing.  I was furious.  I held the end of the bench, then I went and sat down, and then I thought, no, I’m going to tell him that what he did was inappropriate and if he did anything similar again I would report him for sexual assault and pursue him to the full extent of the law.

So I did.  I got up and I went over there and I leaned on his desk and he smirked.  I told him that what he did was unacceptable and if he did anything similar, I would report him for sexual assault to HR, and then I would file charges against him.  And he started laughing and making light of it and started turning his chair away from me to laugh with his other colleagues and make a big joke of it.  So I grabbed the back of his chair and spun him around to face me fully, and told him in a much louder voice (which always carries in an open plan office) that he did not get to laugh this off, or make light of it.  That grinding his dick against my arse was sexual assault, and I would pursue him to the fullest extent of the law, and I would make sure he was locked up.  That what he did was serious and absolutely inappropriate to do to anyone.

His little beady eyes glared up at me as I woke up after delivering my grand and impassioned speech.

It’s been on my mind all day.  I’ve been turning it over and over again, trying to understand what it was.  It was only this evening that I realised that dream was me confronting Thing and not allowing him to dismiss his actions, to dismiss his impact on me, to minimise what he did or make light of it.

Once It is no longer a part of my life and I am fully in the clear of It, I will no longer have to pretend to like Thing should I ever see him again at mutual friend functions.  I will be able let mutual friends know that Thing and It have traumatised me and abused me – probably not the details, but I can let them know in no uncertain terms that these two creatures have seriously harmed me.  I won’t have to pretend.  About any of it.

The Problem With Spending

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I just bought something.  For myself.  I didn’t need it – it’ll make things easier, but I didn’t need it, and I didn’t need it now.  There was a sale on, it was a bit cheaper than it would normally be, and I could afford it.

But the conditioning from an early age – I was an anxious and empathetic middle child, and mother’s face got so pinchy when I needed new shoes or clothes and I hated it – and the decade of abuse from a narcissist obsessed with money and the perception of power, going straight into being an impoverished student with too many animals, has meant that I cannot spend money.  If I spend money on myself bad things will happen and I won’t be able to afford to pay for the things I have to pay for.

Because that’s what would happen.  I would budget, make sure we could afford everything, give myself nothing to spend, and he would spend it all and fuck the budget.  My mind damn near exploded when I had a problem that would require financial input this year … and I realised that I could pay for it and no one would fuck up my budget so I couldn’t.  But I still couldn’t spend money on myself.

So I, understandably, panicked.  I felt guilty.  I felt awful!  I’d just spent money that didn’t need to be spent!

A friend of mine, who experiences these same issues, suggested that I budget in ‘my money’, the money I’m allowed to put aside and spend on whatever I want and is separate from my savings.  I will definitely start doing that, because I have difficulty with the ‘savings’ distinction.  I have difficulty identifying what it’s there for, but now I will have two ‘savings’.  One is for emergencies.  The other is for me to spend on myself.  On whatever I want.

The Abuser Returns

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I am quite fortunate in that my abuser now lives in a completely different country.  This means I don’t have to worry about It (I’ve decided to call my abuser It from here-on-in) ‘being in the area’.  I don’t have to worry about It bumping into any of my friends in our city of birth.  I don’t have to worry about bumping into It when I’m in the city, either.  This keeps my stress levels relatively low.  I can have my own life, and feed It very select bits of my life.

It’s going to be in the country.  It’s returning for a brief period of time.  Even though It will be half a country away, I’m in a state of dissociated panic.  I am under no illusions that It can find where I live with only a cursory look, were It so minded, and I am not so far away that It could not “visit”, despite It only being in the country for a few days.

I am really hoping Its narcissistic arrogance, and the fact that in order to find my address, It would have to access a website that has more negative implications for It than for me, will prevent It from looking me up.

I do not want It coming near me or the life I’ve made for myself.  I still have to ‘make nice’ with It, and I don’t think I could face-to-face.  I think I would just start screaming, and I’m pretty sure that’s not considered a ‘suitable greeting’ for someone you are supposedly ‘amicable’ with.  I had nightmares last night about It.  For the first time in months It was in my dreams again, tormenting me.

I will need to be very careful to get a lot of sleep over the next week or so, and do nice things that involve staying inside and basically hiding.  Whenever I’m outside I’m going to be on extreme high-alert for It, so distraction is going to be key to surviving the coming week.

Narcissistic Abuse And Money

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Budgets inspire a meltdown.  Unexpected expenses have me panicking and shaking for days.

This is the result of nearly a decade of abuse around money and budgeting.  I would budget.  He would blow it.  I would budget around that, He would blow it.  He wouldn’t allow any surplus in the budget, He had to get the next thing, He had to get another big expense, He had to buy more things.  I distinctly remember a discussion where he wanted a new car and I said if we got the large purchase he wanted on finance, we would have no wriggle room in the budget at all, and he replied with “that’s fine, we don’t need it anyway!”.

I’m talking no savings, no ability to go anywhere or do anything other than survive.  Literally living paycheck to paycheck.  In the end, when it had gotten really bad, we were on a combined income of nearly $200,000.  He spent every cent and more.  He would bully me to get a credit card, and put things on it.  I had to, to make ends meet, and then, despite budgeting to put it back on the card, he would spend it.

He would spend it.  He would spend it.  He would spend it.  He spent it all.  Because he wanted to Keep Up With The Joneses.  He was obsessed with the idea of wealth, of having it, and the approval he would receive from it.

It has taken me years to get a healthier relationship with money – I can actually put money aside and not compulsively spend it.  But I still want to vomit every time I work on my budget.  Unexpected expenses may always send me into a panic.  But the most difficult thing?

He is still doing it.  Through a series of decisions and a complex situation on both our parts, I am still somewhat reliant upon him to provide a small amount of money to pay off the debts I incurred at his behest.  And he’s not.  He was great for a while.  Now he’s not.  He’s spent it all, and I am once again scrabbling to make it work.  Except I no longer have any sway, I no longer have a way to cover for it.  So I become somewhat catatonic.

Which basically just involves me lying on the couch staring blankly at the TV while I’m at home, and spending minutes at a time staring blankly at the paper in front of me when I’m at work, and just generally wanting to not exist.

The day I no longer rely on him to pay off that debt will be the happiest day of my life.