It is hard to find people in this world who will try to understand just what PTSD is, let alone how it impacts your life. Even people who love you are apt to know more about the president’s dog than PTSD. Even if they read up on it, they may not understand it in an empathetic way since it is not something they experience. There are days that I feel more understood by the cat than a dear friend. (Of course, this is anthropomorphism — but heh, whatever gets me through the day… 😉 ) But, here at WordPress, I can find others who walk my path — who “get it” — because they are walking it too. It may not be PTSD, but instead depression, anxiety, OCD, DID, bi-polar disorder, or any number of mental and emotional health challenges. But, we can understand each other because we have shared experiences. Some days, we write a post and feel heard when we see a “like” on it. We press “like” when we find a post we can relate to. Sometimes we even comment on each others blogs and share a thought or two. We see others on the path sharing our journey. The loneliness abates. Other people’s ignorance is easier to bear. There are others who understand and whom we understand and this is a very good thing.
If you are looking for some honest feedback from me you will have to request it passionately. As someone who has had enough criticism to last a lifetime from my mother and first husband, I don’t like to dole it out to others. I understand that healthy criticism can be helpful; but, its been rare that I have been on the receiving end of this type. I think healthy criticism should include comments about what someone did right, along with remarks about what could have been better. A spirit of humility should also be present. After all, it is just one fallible human’s opinion.
But how do you withstand criticism from those that are hyper-critical? Those that consistently tear others down rather than build them up? Some you can kick to the curb and get on with your life. But others are a permanent fixture in your life. I think it helps to recognize that the criticism says more about them than you. They have issues. Probably, they do not feel very good about themselves or were subject to a lot of criticism growing up.
But, how do you handle it? Can a certain response decrease the amount of negative feedback you get from the critical ones? I am looking for ideas on how to cope and respond to this dilemma. Please share your ideas if you have any.
My heart was broken by my father. My memories about my father had always been wonderful. He was loving, kind, funny, and gentle. I would remember how gentle he was when removing splinters from my hands. Although not one for physical affection, the look in his eyes when he looked at me was as good as any hug. We laughed together often and usually it was at each other and ourselves. Much time was spent together bicycle riding through the neighborhood and playing badminton in the back yard. Other special times together including art lessons using the John Gnagy Learn to Draw Kit. Dad would also make his delicious ice cream shakes and sodas for me on hot summer days. Oh, how I loved and adored my father.
But then, in my thirties, the flashbacks began. First, they were about the newspaper boy and his friend who had sexually assaulted me repeatedly on my way home alone from school. Then, they were about my father. How I had finally told him despite their insistence that no one would believe me or else would blame me. The attacks by the boys stopped after I told my father. But, the flashbacks were not done. They continued. Now, I would climb the stairs into the attic when I would feel myself having that strange trance feeling that would precede the flashbacks. And then I saw the unthinkable. My father had sexually abused me. And threatened me into silence. My sweet, wonderful father was a part-time monster. I fought so hard to not believe these flashbacks. How could the man who so gently removed my splinters defile me? My father loved me, how could this be? After several months of these returning memories I finally confronted my father over the phone. He not only denied everything, but called me a lying slut. His voice in that phone call was not that of the good father, but that of the bad, threatening father. If I had had any doubts they were extinguished now.
We have never spoke or seen each other since. I have never fully mourned my loss of him. I have been struggling just to survive and function each day and raise my son. But I have cried this morning as I have written this. The prompt for today was “who would you give truth serum to?” My answer would be to my father. And its not to get him to admit to the abuse. I don’t need that. What I want to ask him is “Are you sorry you abused me?” and “Do you miss me?” I want to know that he has remorse. That all my love was not completely misplaced. Or, maybe that the love I perceived was not all a lie, but was real. I know the abuse was real, but what about the love?
The rain has been persistent all day. It’s been dreary inside and out this morning, but I have finished all the chores and it is only one o’ clock. I turn on the lamp by my overstuffed reading chair now. It casts light on the window panes behind it. The rain is trickling down them. A whole afternoon to myself. Free to do anything I want. I start by putting a record of Debussy’s music on the stereo. The Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun fills the room that is lined with books. Then, to the fireplace. Kneeling down on the hearth, I place a log and some kindling inside. After opening the damper, I light the kindling and watch the bright flames flicker. My cheeks redden and warm from the heat. The room has transformed from dreary to cozy. The light from the fire glows in the cut glass of the decanters on an old table. “What a good idea.” I think and pour myself a sherry. Grabbing my latest mystery novel, I sink into the chair and sip the sweet wine. Dinah, my tortoise shell cat, pads into the room and throws herself down on the braided rug in front of the fireplace. I sit, well content, and listen to the music. After the last piece on the album has played, the silence and the sounds of the rain are all I want. And, I have taken the precaution of taking the phone off the hook. Neither the cat, nor I, will be disturbed on this fine, rainy afternoon.