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Posts Tagged ‘abuse’

(cross posted from my own blog and Kinja)

I would have taken the broken arm, at least it’s a pain people can see and can understand. 

I use to make art work back in the early aughts about when I was bullied in high school. One of my video art works,“Words”*, was about how people tell you over and over “forgive and forget” as though somehow you can just get over that. That sentiment was like a punishment. Every time I opened up  about being bullied, I’d get shot down with “you need to forgive and forget.” It takes a long time to get over five years of daily torment. I found I didn’t need to forgive and forget the people who viciously harassed me, but I needed to forgive myself for letting it happen.  I’m very hard on myself.  Of course, nothing is that simple. It’s never straightforward and there’s no single path to healing. 

Back in 05, I decided to get some counselling because making this kind of work was taking a lot out of me. I went to counseling at York University (where I was a student), and my evaluation went well and I was assured they could help me. But my assigned counselor was horrible. I talked about being bullied, humiliated in form of a public spectacle sexual assault (not rape, I know in Canada we think those words are interchangeable, they aren’t), how that was making me have panic attacks, and I briefly mentioned I was doing therapy in tandem for support. He heard the last part of that and said “You know, there are other people with bigger problems than you.”  I clammed up, he asked me if I wanted to continue I smiled and said “No, I’m great!” and left that place and found a private place to sob.

Now I  joke “I guess I didn’t fit the subject of his thesis.”  I should have complained, but I was ashamed and embarrassed, and I actually believed him. It was similar to when I was bullied. I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want people to see what the bullies saw and start believing the bullies must be right about my general awfulness.  I got bullied by my ex-counselor into silence, because I didn’t want another one to agree and thus make me feel even worse.  

When I sought out counselling again to deal with the crippling stress, depression and anxiety of my medical problems. I got my family doctor to make a few suggestions of counselors because we both know I have terrible luck with all doctors.  I got three suggestions did some research and went to the first one and I started by telling my new therapist what happened last time and that I didn’t have high hopes for this time. It went significantly better and as a result I have gotten better (not that it was easy, it wasn’t, it’s no 80s clean up montage.)

Emotional pain is at best, difficult. People can’t see it, and they don’t understand it. They cover it up. We feel ashamed. We don’t talk about and it becomes worse. I talk about this earnestly as a person who represses everything and still has difficulty crying in front of my therapist and instead I twist my face into a contorted smile. My “I’m gonna tell you something awful, and I’m gonna cry, but I will smile to stop myself from crying because I can’t stand the humiliation of crying and appearing weak.” smile.  I have a double standard, I’m totally okay with other people’s tears and will comfort them, but me? No, there’s no crying allowed here.

I’ve gotten better. There was one session where I sobbed for twenty minutes because I was so upset that my surgeon let me suffer for eight months, because he didn’t believe me that I was still in pain from a ‘simple’ test, and all he had to do was give me a shot to stop the pain. He told me this matter-of-factly after my surgery because I kept asking “Why was I in pain for so long?”  The pain was terrible, but the knowledge that no matter what I said or how I said it I would never be heard, and that I’d suffer again and again because no doctor would ever believe me was devastating.

I partially blamed myself, because I wondered if he refused to listen to me because my family doctor and I complained about his colleague who mistreated me and now I was “the difficult patient.” I’m not difficult, I simply don’t ‘like’ being abused.  I use ‘like’ in this way, because my surgeon’s secretary made a snarky comment about how I “didn’t ‘like’ the private clinic”. I explained “I didn’t ‘like’ being lied to about which procedure I was receiving.” She didn’t ‘like’ that comment. 

And once again, there comes this silence. That awkward silence of ‘we don’t talk about that’ or ‘I don’t know what to say’. The second option is better. What am I suppose to do? How do I stop that from happening again? And will people listen and understand? My life seems like a cycling of bullying and shame silence, whether it be by teens, my ex-counselor and now doctors. I want it to stop. It’s bullshit. People like to treat me like garbage, and now I’m slowly going to write about it. It will take time, and maybe one day, someone hear me or I’ll learn how to deal with it and it will stop. 

To quote Captain Picard “I’m drawing the line here.”

As a side note on visible pain when I was going through the final arc of my medical malpractice mistreatment misadventures garbage, I was in constant pain for several months. The only time I received general and overwhelming sympathy, empathy and support from others  was when I got a root canal.  For some reason a root canal was an acceptable and understandable form of physical pain. I’m assuming this stems from a general fear of dentists and that most people go to a dentist and there is norm for dental experiences. Whereas crippling anxiety and constant pain in my uterus was a pain that was not understandable, except by an exclusive few, which resulted in silence and occasionally questions on whether or not that pain actually existed.  

I’m no social scientist, but it seems we have difficulty believing things that are happening to other people but have not happened to us. Root canals are generic enough that people seem to be trained to be sympathetic to it; whereas any illness involving sensitive organs seems to cause people to be at a loss of words or in disbelief. Though I suppose we never ask “how’s your uterus treating you these days?”

*the work is slightly dated, but the premise is still there. 

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