I discovered the Sherlock BBC series early in my recovery (see clip if interested). When I was first diagnosed, the stress part of PTSD had manifested in my neck. The old adage of someone being a ‘pain in the neck’ or ‘it made all the hair on the back of my neck stand up’ took on new meaning. I now know, from personal experience, that extreme distress does weird and painful things to your neck. The muscles were so tight that doing my job at a computer was difficult. I could manage sitting upright on the couch, surrounded by pillows, watching TV. Which is where I spent most of my time in the beginning stages of recovery.
One of my favorite finds was the Sherlock series. I loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s emotional detachment and the extreme analytical mind of the Sherlock Holmes character he played. And I could relate, too, to every single bit of it–to Sherlocks investigative powers and seeming ‘sixth sense’, to Watson’s displacement, to the victims of the crimes, and to others who were taken aback and didn’t know if Sherlock was mad, or a genius, or both. I was completely hooked in the first episode when Watson, a soldier with PTSD, went to his therapist after doing some detective work with Sherlock for the first time. His visible tremor had disappeared and his therapist said she believes he wasn’t actually suffering from any after effects of the wartime. Rather, she surmised that he missed it (the intensity of wartime) and that is why he was symptomatic.
That scene really stuck with me.
Fast forward a few years and I am well aware, from books and other research I’ve done, that incest and sexual assault survivors often have tell-tale signs of past abuse. They tend to be very sensitive to smells, for instance. They also tend to love and devour mystery novels and detective shows.
The internet is full of articles like ’10 signs you were molested as a child’. I received so much silence and denial from my abusers, after I owned the truth of my childhood, that I needed something to latch onto. Whenever I’d start to doubt myself I would look up another one of those ‘lists’ and realize that I had EVERY SINGLE ADULT TRAIT of someone who had been sexually abused as a child. My mind would calm down again. I wasn’t crazy. It had really happened. This was my story. I couldn’t deny it anymore even if everyone else involved WAS denying it.
And so here I am, years later, still trying to figure out how to NOT live in denial. When does the crazy feeling in your brain go away? Hmm. I think it would instantly go away if one of my abusers (or ALL of them) came to me in true apology and owned it. But, I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I am just trying to break the emotional and mental bondage (to my abusers) and to uproot the abusive mind-sets that I still fall into.
To help me in that effort, I am reading The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes. (I wrote about it yesterday). And, as with many other helpful things I’ve read and experienced, I’m seeing how all the other things I’ve read, watched, or experienced stack up to form an overall explanation of why I am…the way that I am. Particularly the section of Carnes’ book which talks about using intensity in the place of intimacy.
Yikes. That is so me.
I loved that BBC Sherlock show because it was intense. I, too, love intensity. And I often mistake intensity for intimacy. Intensity was part of the cycle of abuse I grew up in.
There is an old song by Garth Brooks called ‘two of a kind’. that can get stuck in my head for days, especially the line ‘sometimes we fight…just so we can make up’. That line has always resonated with me. Now I know WHY.
Like many other incest survivors, I sometimes manifest conflict with those closest to me. I am subconsciously trying to re-create the drama that was my childhood, and trying, in vain, to resolve that past conflict through present relationships. I manufacture tension. I start out by withholding. Then I go from zero to one hundred in a few seconds and unleash the fury of abandonment and neglect unto those who are not abandoning me or neglecting me. I see things that are NOT there. And then I just want it to go away again. I want to passionately make up and forget it ever happened… ‘Sometimes we fight….just so we can make up‘. It is the making up, which never–ever–happened in my childhood. It is THAT which I am craving. Conflict resolution. Restoration. Things being made right again. Making up…
All of this is a longing for true intimacy.
All that ever happened to me as a child was intensity on top of intensity. I didn’t even know what I was missing; just that SOMETHING was missing. Therefore I began to VIEW the intensity as intimacy…And then we get to make up and it’s oh so good again. Except I’m the only one who doesn’t tire of this lashing out routine. My BHH is exhausted and very angry that I am still doing it.
I don’t want this intensity any more, though. I want it to stop. I want to be like Caroline Ingalls who never raised her voice and always spoke with smiles.
The problem is, when my neck gets tight and I have to spend a few days on the couch again: I would much rather watch Sherlock than Little House on the Prairie.