So many thoughts coursing through my mind about how to phrase all of this, so here we go…
Honesty is the best policy. But does that necessarily mean sharing EVERYTHING? Maybe not…
I thought about this concept and how it relates to the “open door” policy. As a former manager in the Navy, I had an “open door.” Anyone could talk to me about anything. That didn’t necessarily mean I was always available or they could waltz in without an appointment. My physical door, actually, was always closed.
Now back to honesty… I may have misconstrued something I learned early on in recovery and a similar lesson carried forward from my churchiness days. Be honest, tell the truth & (with regards to the recovery book Victims No Longer) share “as often, in as much detail, to as many people as you can.” That last one was actually meant to start to shed some of the shame all survivors carry. It works, too.
So I shared my story. Every detail. The facts, my opinions and how I believed (then) it affected me. I shared A TON. With friends, my colleagues, my boss, my family and my wife. I shared different levels of details with those different people. My wife obviously got way more information than my boss. But they all got “I was raped by my dad during my childhood and I’m in therapy now.”
Something happened recently though. Both at work and at home.
At work, I just got a new boss. It felt bittersweet. I had worked so hard to develop the relationship I had wanted with my old boss. She was tough, but fair. She understood I was going through something tough but continued to hold me accountable for the work I had to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss during that time.
As I have begun to accept responsibility and accountability for myself, I thought maybe I shared too much with my old boss. Like I may have lost the benefit of the doubt. Like a bad day for me may be seen as a sign of regression to her. I wished I hadn’t shared as much or anything at all with her, now. I needed to then, but I wish she didn’t know as much now.
Of course, telling her was a part of my personal recovery. I also discovered WHY I shared as much with so many people. I was still looking as a victim for someone to make me better, to fix me. I don’t need anyone to fix me anymore, so I wish I hadn’t shared some of the details I had. I wasn’t prepared then and am only getting accustomed now to having shared such details and how to be self-accountable with those same people.
So, I am excited for a new boss and a partial “fresh start.”
And at home, I have started to notice my wife using my “mental disease” against me. Whenever she gets stressed out and feels threatened by me, she uses the intimate details of my story against me. It’s tough for me, now, to have a conversation with her because anything I say, to her, is laced with the consequences of my abuse. I wouldn’t think the things I do or say the things I say if I hadn’t been abused or wasn’t depressed.
In short, I, me, was the “messed up” one. Not her. She was “functional” and I was not.
My internal boundaries have been so poor, I BELIEVED HER!
Turns out, with regards to the specific discussion we had not only was I not messed up, I was ON THE RIGHT TRACK both in recovery and life in general! (I had asked what we wanted out of our marriage, what would it look like if we had it). She said the question was “inconsequential” and everything devolved from there including her telling me I had a mental disease that accounted for how I responded emotionally to her remark, that I was part of a “crazy” group (actually a survivor support group), that I should kill myself, and that she wanted a divorce.
When I got to therapy (could hardly wait this last week!), I learned that my question was indicative of higher personal and interpersonal growth. That some unabused men can’t even get to that question in their marriages, so especially as an abused man, it was a great question. I learned a ton of good and positive things about myself, which I didn’t expect.
And then I got angry, angry at her for making me feel so bad about myself. Angry at her for using intimate details about my personal story and using them as weapons in our “fight.” Yes, she called it a fight. Interesting, because it wasn’t a fight. She absolutely nuked me and took me out when she called me “mentally ill” and “crazy.”
And I figured it out. I shared too much looking for someone to fix me. For someone to make it right, for someone to take care of my abuser and make my life better. At home, at work, with friends and family. I shared way too much because I didn’t know why I was sharing. And when something goes wrong in my relationships with those people, they have been able to shed all accountability by putting everything on me, because I’m the one with the mental illness.
Intimacy should be reciprocated. I am willing to be an open book, with other open books. I am willing to talk about my feelings and work on self improvement, with other people who will do the same. I will be mindful of the type of stuff I share about myself and my story and with whom I share them.
I need support and help, I don’t need a parent. I need kindness and understanding, not permission to kill myself.
I need love and support. You know, the basic human needs.
Because, as I figured out not long ago, I’m human and have a right to be here like everyone else.
And I will stand up for me.