I am a willing volunteer. I share my experiences on here because I believe that such things are universal, shared by humanity as a whole – and yet we hide them away as if they were dirty secrets.
I have volunteered my story, both good and bad. If this acting of volunteering makes just one person feel less alone then I shall feel that my, at times painful, public analysis of my truth is worth the effort.
For most of my life, I have held the key to a small, locked room of the heart. No matter how open I appear, that is, to a certain extent, an illusion, for that small chamber has been kept safe and silent and weighted down with this ballast of fear and lack of trust since I was a very small girl indeed.
Intimacy has eluded me. I have pushed people away – not always consciously – and paid lip service to the concept of trusting other human beings. I have had lots of sex in my life – but, have only entrusted a copy of that tiny key to one boyfriend thus far, and that was decades ago. I have spent hours disclosing my life and feelings to male and female friends – without taking that key out, showing my friends and, with their help, opening that confronting door.
I write candidly on here – and yet am always aware of that secret, frozen part of myself still immured in durance vile, as it were. It is the dread of letting go, of surrendering, of feeling fully and of trusting anyone sufficiently to allow for the possibility of hurt and rejection.
A kind of, ‘If I trust you implicitly and totally, then I will be obliterated when you choose someone else as a replacement. So I will only go so far with trust. That way I am safe…’
But of course, I am NOT safe. Such a closed and territorial way of doing things did not stop my unknown assailant from sexually assaulting me on a Weston-super-Mare pavement twenty-eight years ago. The locked room has never protected me from emotional abuse and cruelty.
More to the point, however, the key has always been an isolating piece of metal. It has kept me marooned, a small and stubborn island, miles from the mainland of other people.
Ironically, there always was a bridge – rickety, it is true, but safe enough for the purpose – linking me to the bigger world. But I had a habit – no, have a habit! – of taking a few brave steps forwards and then running back to the illusory safety of my desert island, and then wishing I could pull the bridge up after me and shut out the rest of humanity.
It is one of the saddest aspects of abuse, to my way of thinking: That many children, already abandoned emotionally, go on to create the means by which it becomes ever-harder to rejoin the human world. Terrified of being left and injured, they seal away the parts of the heart which are there to dance in the glory of mutual love and giving and sharing.
Or, perhaps even sadder in a way, they give love avidly – but are too afraid to let it come back their way. Why? Because, at the deepest level – the level which caused them to erect the walls of the room in the first place – they fear they are, fundamentally, unlovable.
There is a crippling sense of, ‘If people knew what I was really like…’
Thursday night, during the violent trembling, I knew that I was locked in a room of my own making. Every cell in my body was screaming, ‘Get on that bridge! Run for the mainland! Trust friends!’ – but the habit of fifty-eight years was, at that point, too strong for me.
Friday morning dawned. I sat on the beach of my lonely island, buffeted by dark storms and fear – and something broke. Perhaps I had, quite simply, turned that key in the lock too many times and the mechanism had become fragile. Perhaps the hinges were wearing out. Perhaps my safe island, sensing that I had outgrown it, was, in a kindly manner, rejecting me.
The door sprung open. The key would not longer fit, let alone turn. I wrote long and raw texts to friends whom I knew, with sudden certainty, that I could trust completely. I knew also that the small band I do not have phone access to would, at some level, be there too.
The response was overwhelming, humbling. I was completely open, vulnerable – and it was safe to be that way. I fell backwards, as in the Trust Exercise, and kind, loving hands caught me and set me back on my faltering feet.
I finally saw that shutting myself away – my heart in a claustrophobic room; my body on a remote beach – was not my purpose in life, and does not work at any level. I finally saw that a tiny, deeply-buried part of me is trust-whole and knows when it is safe to let go – but that I have allowed the mind to take control (or, in the case of some men, the genitals) and to argue the case for a defence that was, fundamentally, indefensible.
Yesterday, there was no agonising, no conscious choice: I knew which friends to text (and, in the two cases mentioned, to call on the Inner). Trust acted for, and despite, me…
Love and friendship feel fuller, richer, more variegated this morning. I opened the door – and was not abandoned or rejected. I was gathered up and hugged. What a miracle!
Friends, the door is open! The cramped island is disintegrating, going back into the sea from whence it, originally, emerged. The bridge is no longer needed. I am back on the emotional mainland.
With special thanks to all those who have walked this journey with me every step of the way. You know who you are.