Introspection – flammable

I found this item on the use of blogs as therapy as I was processing some of yesterday’s work with my new therapist. Actually, as I’ve blogged about recently, he is a Social Work student practicing his chosen field by spending this academic year under the supervision of my psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Psychiatry’s outpatient Clinic for HIV-related Concerns.

Since the incident, in 2003, in which I was knocked down by a taxi cab, the track of my personal work has quite appropriately dealt with the effects of post-traumatic stress. With my history, however, I have what a lawyer friend of mine told me is referred to – in the casual vocabulary of the accident litigation field – as a “soft head”, whereby the most recent traumatic incident opens a Pandora’s box of previous traumas. Certainly that’s how follow-up care for post-traumatic stress proceeded.

During yesterday’s session my social worker/therapist opined that I was very resilient. The presenting problem yesterday was my feeling overwhelmed by a few rather basic issues of day-to-day living which, in the big picture, aren’t very significant. After rhyming off the laundry list of things I’d like to fix I acknowledged feeling many of the same things that go back to childhood, e.g. instinctively wanting to “protect” those close to me from knowing what’s going on for fear that responsibility would come back to me.

By my logic, Mr. Glenn tyrannized me, and got away with it, because I feared reporting someone who was a family friend, an adult and, as head teacher in my school, was able to exact revenge for the foreseeable years. I was vulnerable to sexual abuse in my adolescent years, it followed, precisely because I was secretly confused about my sexual orientation and loath to talk about it, which “protected” both me and my abusers. High school bullies could ridicule me at will without fear of retaliation.

One is only as sick as one’s secrets, indeed.

Now since coming out in 1981, at age 21, my parents and siblings have expressed nothing but support. It’s been the same since I was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The same can be said for friends over the years.

Yet I still feel like I self-isolate, if not physically then emotionally, as a direct response to my defensive, secret protection during childhood and adolescence. It makes me wonder whether ‘secret’ should be in quotation marks or ‘protection’ or, maybe, the entire phrase ‘secret protection’.

This affects my social life which, during heavy drinking years, manifested as a feeling of being alone – even in a crowded bar – and explains why I am not conscious of feeling lonely when my own company has felt safest for so long. Whereas my isolation sometimes doesn’t feel appropriate it is my default preference.

My resiliency sometimes gets fed back to me as a strength but it seems to have come incrementally with little conscious effort on my part and, as ill-conceived an idea as it is, not to mention often disproved in my case, perhaps I operate as my own best protection.

Maybe it is what gives me empathy for others, on one hand, and appropriate levels of anger, on the other, when I try to agitate, alone or in community, for a better world.


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