Triggers and healing


Thanks everyone for your support over the last few days. I’m still feeling pretty low, but doing ok. I spent today listening to nice music, reading my book, and putting fresh, crisp sheets on the bed to make me feel good. I’m hoping this will all help to turn things around – it has at least passed time.

I was playing around on the computer last night and got triggered. I was playing some of the silly games on one of those social networking sites – you know the ones. Anyway, a friend made a stupid s*xual remark that just tipped me over the edge. The trigger was nasty, but I didn’t lose touch with reality like I sometimes do. I was unbelievably furious… but I was able to do some thinking afterwards.

I got to thinking about why my views of s*x are so screwed up. I’ve talked before about my past, so I’m not going to dredge that up again here. I did find a website, though, that talks about s*xual healing after s*xual abuse.

The site talks about the sorts of problems survivors might experience “in the bedroom”:

  • Avoiding or being afraid of sex
  • Approaching sex as an obligation
  • Experiencing negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch
  • Having difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sensation
  • Feeling emotionally distant or not present during sex
  • Experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images
  • Engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sexual behaviours
  • Experiencing difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship
  • Experiencing vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties
  • Experiencing erectile or ejaculatory difficulties

Yep, that’s me. Most of it, anyway. I am afraid of s*x. I associate it with all sorts of negative feelings. I often dissociate during s*x. The Evil Huntress comes out; I do whatever it is I think I *should* do; and I end up feeling worse than when I started.  

I’m not sure why a conversation on a social networking site would bring this all up, but it did. Actually it’s pretty obvious to me now – the comments I received made me feel vulnerable; made me feel like I didn’t have a choice. Just like all those years ago.

The same website lists a whole stack of attitudes towards s*x. It says that when s*x is abusive, we get messages like s*x is uncontrollable; it’s an obligation; it’s hurtful; it’s something *done* to us; it done for one person’s benefit only; it’s unsafe and it has no boundaries.

I identify with all of those things.

What I have trouble identifying with is the list of “healthy” attitudes to s*x – that it’s a choice; it’s pleasurable; it’s nurturing; it’s respectful; it’s mutual, and it’s intimate. The website says we have a right to experience s*x in this way. That seems so foreign. Cognitively I understand it; I just don’t identify with it. But I’d like to.

I guess that’s possibly why I’ve been so focussed on s*x with Nice Guy. I think that’s what he expects. I’m still learning that it might not be the sole focus of his existence and that he has thoughts, feelings, etc just like I do.

Nice Guy is gentle, respectful, caring. I’ve never experienced that before. I’d like to find a way to enjoy it – to learn to heal s*xually, I suppose, so that I can.

More work to do with the therapist, I suspect. And another gut-wrenching, squirm-inducing topic to do it over. Sigh.

15 thoughts on “Triggers and healing

  1. he has thoughts, feelings, etc just like I do.

    That’s a really, really big step right there … the fact that you’re able to hold that idea, which is, in and of itself, such a baffling and even scary concept to an abuse survivor.

    This is the horror and grace of healthy relationships … they hit you where you’re most deeply hurt, and bring stuff up that you wanted to keep buried. The fact that this is coming up for you so strongly is a sign that you want to heal, even though I know it doesn’t feel that way. For me, it wasn’t sexual issues, it was attachment issues, but the gauntlet was similar, and if it helps at all … during the first six months that Beth and I were together, I came closer to serious self-injury than I had in a long time, because so much stuff was being triggered for me.

    It’s deeply confusing to have such a seemingly negative response to a positive experience, but keep in mind, if you can, that it’s not just you … knowing that others have gone down this path may help you to keep your faith in yourself. Your journey is individual and unique, but there are many others traveling in the same direction who can wave back at you and let you know there’s better territory ahead. Keep going. You’ll get there.

  2. Wow. Kind of blew my head off with this Kerro. That list. That’s pretty much how I think about it. I make all the jokes in the world about sex, but underneath it all, it is really something I go along with to please the other party. Thought provoking.

    I am glad you are doing OK, even if OK is still kind of crummy. Please take care of yourself.

    Lola x

  3. @ David – You’re right. The idea that men are “human” just like me is baffling and scary. I don’t understand it, but I’m trying to just sit with it. For as long as I can remember men were just these “things” that did things you didn’t want them to do. It’s like they were cardboard cut-outs. Now I’m expected to understand and accept humanness, in all its beauty and all its frailty? Giant headf*ck.

    You’re not alone in the attachment stakes, though I suspect in different ways. The insecurity I experience is so horrible there are times I think it would almost be better to get dumped – just to get it over with and end the insecurities.

    Thanks for your comment. As always you offer something helpful and thought provoking.

    @ Lola – LOL, sorry I blew your head off! ((hugs))

  4. Having recently ventured back into the dating world myself, I can *so* identify a lot with your posts about that kind of intimacy. It’s been a tough adjustment getting used to the idea that the new bf might not JUST be out for that one thing, and that he really means it when he says we’ll go at my pace, and that ONLY when I’m comfortable will anything move forward. He was actually the one to assure ME that he was in no hurry, and to be very vulnerable in our conversations surrounding the topic. Talk about a shocker!

    Take care of yourself, Kerro, and if it helps, know that you’re not the only one in a bit of a lurch over the subject.

  5. Hi, Kerro –

    Every word you wrote in the post resonated with me . . . it is like you were speaking on my behalf.

    I think it is so awesome that you are even willing to consider the possibility that Nice Guy could be a respectful, healing force in your life — that he might value you for reasons other than sexual gratification. That is very, very brave of you!

    Keep us posted!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  6. hi kerro, i’m so sorry. but i’m feeling embarrassed about what i wrote now. i wish wordpress allowed people to delete their own comments. are you able to delete mine?

    i would appreciate it if you could. thank you.

  7. @ Sanity – brave or stupid? Sometimes I don’t know. My inner compass knows that the only way over is through, so to speak. So, on we go, even if it’s torturous.

    @ Ink Puddle – OMG I think we’re twins! How can a boy be interested in more than “one thing”? And why would he be interested in me in the first place? Am I right? I’m so glad you’ve met someone who will go at your pace. That’s so respectful, and so empowering (even if it makes you want to curl up under a rock)!

    @ Katie – dearest Katie, out of respect and care for you, I’ve deleted your comment (but kept your words because they spoke to me). I have been celibate for more years than I care to admit to. While it was a “choice”, I really didn’t have any other way to go because I wasn’t in a position to go into a relationship for such a long, long time. I’m glad you found a way to take care of yourself – so important. And that you’ve found people to be more caring, and more understanding than you expected. And that not all men are like those we experienced as children. This is all still a cause of great bafflement to me, but I’m trying to learn. Please take care.

    @ Marie – I’m learning that many of us survivors sing from the same song book when it comes to relationships and intimacy. Wrong, but comforting if that makes sense.

  8. I don’t know how long you have been seeing Nice Guy, but it might help to wait a bit and not focus on sex, then perhaps you can gain more of a measure of comfort and be sure that he is truly a nice guy? Just some of my thoughts on such things (though I am by no means any model of sexual health so take all of my thoughts with a grain of salt).

  9. @ Ethereal Highway – thanks for stopping by. I’m not saying I’m going to have s*x with Nice Guy … just thoughts.

  10. Thank you kerro. For both deleting and understanding my feelings 🙂 so obviously I still have some shame to work through. But I’m glad you are keeping what I wrote for yourself. because I really did want to say what I said. I identified so much with what you were saying. But just later wished I’d written you an email instead of left my words “on display.” I felt fine and good when I wrote you but then last night started to feel really insecure. It’s so strange how that happens isn’t it? How in a moment you can feel good about something but then later the insecurity, fear and doubt can snap back up out of the depths. thank you again. And I’m so glad what I said “spoke to you.” 🙂 That is so nice to know. I feel much better this morning. I talked to my partner last night about my feelings, then your words this morning. Please take care you too. ((safe hug)) if you want one.

  11. Ah Kerro – Your post speaks to it all. I said to my T that one of the worst aftereffects is that everything I think/feel about sex is so f@cked up. Thanks for posting the link to the site. I may spend some time on it. This will come up in session with my T soon – I offhandedly mentioned some book I had read parts of (about healing sex) and then acknowledged that I knew we had to talk about it soon.

    Although it sounds like your funk continues, it also sounds like you are working hard to examine all parts of your feelings. You do good work, you know?


  12. @ Katie – no worries, I understand completely about commenting and then panicking. I think you did a good thing asking me to delete it – shows that you care about and look after yourself and your needs. 🙂 ((hugs)) to you too.

    @ OLJ – I can’t necessarily “recommend” the site – it was just something I found that spoke to me at the time. There are books about s*xual healing, though I’ve not looked at any. It’s hard enough to talk about in therapy let alone going out in public and buy a book, you know? That makes me feel like I have a big sign on my head that says “FREAK”. Although sometimes when I buy books on dark things I pretend that I’m a therapist and the book is part of my work-related reading. That probably sounds crazy, but it helps get me through the check out. Thanks for saying I do good work – my therapists (Wonder, Back Up and the Group facilitators) all say the same thing, though I still struggle to understand what they mean.

  13. Funny – when I check out therapy type books from the library, I always think to myself – “I’m sure they think I am a therapist. I look too normal to NEED this book.” 🙂

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