The Cost of Shame

Warning: This material is not safe for children, and not safe for work, either, if you have people walking by your desk. That is fair warning. Proceed at your own risk. I can’t believe I’m even going to write about this, but it is an essential part of recovering from what I believe is psychosexual abuse. This is not for you if you have not been a victim yourself of something like it, but you’re invited for enlightenment purposes.

It is amazing how dark I could go after I met (name redacted, although there are days I wonder why, because rage). I am just now starting to believe that I am whole and healthy sexually because for a number of years, I tortured myself by feeling dirty. When I was 17 or 18, I let a woman walk all over me because I felt that I was already damaged goods. That’s because I could love my girlfriend beyond all measure *and* feel like calling out the wrong name during sex at the same time. It was special, and please read as much fucked up into special as possible.

There has never been a time in my life that I haven’t mentally felt her presence during sex until now, because it took me so long to realize that what I was doing was a byproduct of my childhood and not reality. My reality used to be that I couldn’t think about sex without bringing it back around to some conversation that we’d had or another, and even though she was parental in nature about it, I couldn’t react that way anymore. She’d already given me the journal. She’d already groomed me into being secretive about the time we spent alone. The information she was giving me completely shifted the way I viewed what she was telling me.

Over time, that feeling grew into the shame that almost killed me. She’d planted evidence that she wanted to make love, and then when she didn’t, it said to me in more ways than one how awful and dirty I was for even thinking about it. She engineered that reaction in me like she wanted it, and then slammed the door. What was I supposed to feel in that situation? In doing so much research about verbal abuse, my reaction was right on target. She hooked me into her every word, her every movement, her complete and total seduction.

It wasn’t sex that would have killed me. It would have been rumination from those moments forward, the one where the journal changed hands, from her and back. In some sense, I have not been able to breathe for 24 years, especially during sex, because it brings up all the emotional issues for me- the feeling that I’m disgusting, and I have been since I was 14 years old. I have carried that message into every sexual relationship I’ve entered, and there have been very few times in my life that I have been willing to take on the role of “top” because I generally want women to abuse me in bed. I want to feel as dirty as I am, and be punished for it egregiously. I have to live with this fucking mess every day of my life, and its tendrils are so entrenched that it’s taken years to start scraping at them with a razor and meat tenderizer.

Through me, every one of my sexual partners has had to deal with that dark energy, the kind that gnaws at you until your throat closes. This is not who I want to be, and I see it so clearly. Dana is owed more than that. I don’t want her to have to “deal with me” anymore. She’s been so patient and so kind through all of this, and at the same time, not as forgiving as I am. I have so many more positive memories than she does that the instinct to absolutely bite into her neck and rip off her head occurs more often than it does for me.

The consequences of her actions have fucked up every marriage, every sexual encounter, every afterglow where I ruminate on shame instead of enjoying aftershocks of a great orgasm. The horrible thing is that they’ve only been able to tell by the energy I exude, because it’s not on the surface where I can talk about it. It’s down deep in the valley of vulnerability, locked away in a velvet box that leaks.

Here’s another thing I’ve lied about through this whole process. She reads every word. She devours it. I know it, because she told me. She thinks I’m an excellent writer, and even after calling her out on her abuse, the only thing she said was “keep being true to yourself.” Being true to myself says that she has caused so much damage to me and my family that she should *have* to live with a Google tattoo. I want her to feel the hell I’ve been through over the past 24 years, because the lies have compounded into none of this ever happened and Leslie’s a mess.

Diane Syrcle.

25 thoughts on “The Cost of Shame

  1. Wow, girl. This is very intense stuff. Intense but you must know, don’t you, that you are certainly not alone in these feelings of shame. Shame is a horrible thing. Insidious. It’s what every therapist in the world is trying to help us uncover and then release. Acknowledging it is necessary if there is any chance to move through and beyond it. Inside that leaking velvet box along with that shame is a great deal of bravery–this writing is courageous. And so yes, keep being true to yourself. Keep writing. Keep going there and looking squarely at it until it’s gone.

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  2. Not feeling so goddamn alone was the entire scope of this project, and I finally got to a place where I couldn’t take it anymore and this is how I started seeing that conversation:

    Diane: How could you do this to me?
    Leslie: Fuck you that’s how.

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  3. I obviously don’t know what happened, but naming someone fully is a very big step to take. I do sense your anger, and I do know that when we write while angry, sometimes we change our minds about it later. Please don’t think for a moment that I’m condemning you for this post, or that I want you to feel even MORE shame–or that I even would begin to suggest that I know the answers for you. I don’t–I’m not living your life, nor did I live your history. But as you may recall, I’ve mentioned to you before (when I had a different avatar on my profile) that I share at least somewhat of a similar history–SOMEwhat. I told you I still get Christmas and birthday cards and I just become numb. So no, I’m not criticizing your decision, just offering up the alternative possibility to consider. You may have already considered it all ad infinitum, I realize….
    These ancient wounds are so, so deep. I do know about shame, and I do know about regret and anger–and sadness for what I feel was lost, or stolen, from me.
    But I don’t believe we can release our own pain by attempting to inflict pain on others. You are in a world of hurt, I am certain. And I am sorry for all of this hurt. It makes me sad. It makes me sad because I think I know something about what this hurt feels like.
    Sending you hope and strength. I’d send courage, but you already have that.

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  4. And I may well be way out of line (and out of my head) for the above reply. I am probably projecting onto you my own turmoil. Again, I don’t know what happened–only bits and pieces that I have loosely tied together in the few months I’ve been reading your post. Please accept my apologies if I came across as a know it all. I know virtually nothing. =/

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  5. You are absolutely fine. No one EVER has to agree with me, and I see your point.

    You are so right. I thought about it ad infinitum for over a year. Naming her wasn’t about inflicting damage on someone else, but of course it’s a piece. How could it not?

    I named her for my parents. I named her for my adult friends who tried to pull me out of the relationship kicking and screaming as they saw it happening but I was surely beyond reason. I did it for my sister, who has been equally scarred growing up with me. I did it for the church my father pastored, because everyone knew and no one could stop it because I refused to believe that she could ever hurt me, I was just mentally ill.

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  6. I thought more about what you said, Sunflower, and I didn’t explain what I meant by “fuck you, that’s how.” It needs a little clarification. I am a smartass who doesn’t want to justify anything to anyone anywhere. I’m not actually mad at anyone. I’m just extraordinarily focused on my own story because it’s not her job to tell it for me.

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  7. You’re right; it’s no one’s job to tell your story but yours. Sounds like you’re claiming your story as your own, finally. I long to do the same. Instead, it’s been a lifetime of feeling like I’m just along for the ride. I respect your focus and your drive to be free.

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  8. It is the hardest, most challenging test I’ve ever faced. I have felt so low that I wanted to hug the floor so I wouldn’t fall off. I will not live like this ANYMORE. The amount of untruth in my life suffocated me for so long that I snapped… and will continue to snap until I stop thinking I’m going to vomit when I roll over in the night.

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