Section of a mural in San Francisco's Mission District depicting an eye

Know Thyself

Several patterns play themselves out in my life.

Each one is a link to some aspect of my childhood that either is either a scar
or is a source of salvation.

If insanity is repeating the same mistake with the hope of a different outcome, than I have been completely insane since childhood.

One of these insane patterns is that of seeking out and hooking up with narcissistic women.

There are other patterns based on the community in which I was raised: the racism, the antisemitism, the homophobia and the static class system as it existed for people at the very bottom.

These patterns of repetition became especially pronounced when I stopped working and entered therapy.

Psychotherapy means dredging up memories that I want buried under a mountain of distraction and denial.

I often go to therapy in a state of emotional distress, walking through panic attacks and other flight or fight reactions.

The literature I’ve read regarding the treatment of trauma and dissociation states Psychotherapy as essential for successfully resolving a complex trauma disorders.

Cognitive approaches teach people to manage distress but they won’t resolve Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

***

Based on a 1922 photograph of Freud in the Public Domain

The patients’ job during intensive psychotherapy is to ask why.

Why do I seek out women who are devoid of the capacity for love?

Why do I veer from an extreme identification with the middle class to an extreme identification with the poor?

Why do I force myself to fail economically just as I get closest to winning?

Accepting the option to ‘know thyself’ means living in a perpetual state of brutal self-questioning.

Why do I sometimes behave as if I hate myself?

I first grappled with the problem of internalized stigma during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when I wondered if the epidemic was God’s judgment.

None of the intellectual and political constructions that served me as gay activist in the 1970’s could defeat the internalized homophobia that AIDS unleashed.

I watched men die from grief, self-hatred and fear.

I was nearly one of them.

This was when I realized the true function of any ‘ism’ is to convince the target to self destruct.

This was why any novel written about gays before Stonewall usually ended with the suicide or the impoverished death of the main character.

AIDS was the greatest tragic ending, fraught with the dissonant myth of a loving, yet angry and vengeful God.


Internalized homophobia was the least of my problems.

AIDS was trauma on trauma.

I did not know that I had a dissociative disorder.

I did not know that I was living in the worst possible place at the worst possible time for someone with DID.

The political climate in San Francisco coupled with the fear brought on by the epidemic fueled a political backlash against the gay community.

Increased fag bashing was a trigger.

Friends who were healthy one week and dead the next were triggers.

Any spot on my arm sent me into panic, so much so that I became a frequent flyer at the local clinics, which eventually gave me a prescription for Xanax.

Xanax
                                 Xanax

I did not know that Xanax was addictive; I only knew that it made the fear go away.

The straight psychiatrists I saw  were completely removed from the Gay Community and the AIDS epidemic and didn’t understand why the panicked
patient whose friends were all dying was so distressed and unstable.

The pharmaceutical industry reported that Xanax had an anti-depressant effect.

By 1986 I was on a prescribed dose of eight milligrams a day.


Everything that happens during the course of Psychotherapy is a representation of the trauma, its affect your life, and the meaning of your symptoms.

For adult survivors of abuse a common theme in therapy is mistrust and the fear of forming an attachment.

DID allows a part of me to make friends and to form an attachment while protecting the parts of me that are fragile and afraid.

My task in treatment is to intentionally make all of myself vulnerable to another person; in my case, a woman therapist, since most of the damage was done by my Mother.

This process of building trust with a woman who wants what’s best for me and who acts in my interests is the path to becoming whole.


In the Hell of my childhood nothing about me was acceptable.

I was a show-off, too sensitive, too feminine, too much of everything that people in my ‘class’ had no right to be.

In the world of my childhood, God rewards the Godly with a good Christian family, white skin; and money.

A lowly birth meant your place in God’s plan was bondage.

The idea that all Americans have a right to a stake in the wealth of our nation was deemed an absurd fiction, a delusion foisted on good people by damned Yankees.


 

John C. Calhoun Homes
                                                      John C. Calhoun Homes

 

***

Children instinctively want to please their parents; it’s an evolutionary adaptation that enhances survival.

The double bind for an abused child is that the only behavior that pleases the parent is an abdication of the self.

As I enter my fourth year of intensive psychotherapy the questions I must answer become more confounding and painful.

But at least I know what they are have the strength I need to ask them.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2017
The Photo of Xanax found on Google Images

First posted November 1, 2015-updated November 8, 2017 – After 7 years
of psychotherapy and I’m pleased to say I’m getting better.

 

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35 thoughts on “Know Thyself

  1. I remember this post, Robert, it was one of the most candid pieces of writing, ever. I am glad to hear that things are getting better for you all the time. Progress. And I’m also glad that you are part of this WP world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With the sordid goings on in Alabama it looks like everyone is going to get a first hand look at how the community colludes with the perp. I’m working on a piece about a character named Peter. I used one of the images I made to illustrate that for the adult survivor of child abuse thing to get over is the collusion of the community.

      Like

  2. You are writing so very well Robert and I like your directly way to express yourself.
    It is not easy to work through any kind of abuse and might take many years. I used many years too. You are strong to fight so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Keith. I decided to revise it and realized how much I’ve changed since 2015. But the content may be relevant for people who may be new to a mental health diagnosis. A diagnosis of DID is not easy to accept. I resisted psychotherapy for at least year.

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  3. I am STILL trying to determine if the xanax is what triggered my 5 grand mal seizures a little over a month ago. I do know that after the seizures I threw it away and will never have it in the house again. So easily prescribed with no regard to consequences. I am still struggling with the seizures though even on seizure meds so I believe the xanax just triggered something underlying.
    Therapy is something I have done most of my life. I’ve only had one person ever judge me for my mental health status and that was someone here on wordpress. Otherwise, wordpress has given me thousands of people that support this journey, this recovery, this processs. But dissociation is something that I have not learned to come back from. Through all of the therapy, I cannot seem to come back to me when triggered into leaving my body. But trauma does leave a heavy mark.
    Thank you for this post. It is very helpful to me in understanding myself and feeling connected to others that are trying their best!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know Xanax was addictive. I stopped taking them and within two days, I was having seizures and painful muscle spasms. I’ve learned to accept that the damage is done. I can heal some of it and learn to manage the symptoms but I will always have these symptoms. This is where practicing gratitude puts it all into perspective.

      People judge us even as they quietly collude with the everyday violence that destroys lives. How many children are quietly terrified of going to school because of preventable gun violence and bullying?

      We didn’t ask for this. No one asks to be raped, beaten, bullied, or gunned down while praying in a church.

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      1. All very excellent points. We did not ask for any of this and are left with the aftermath of the consequences of what someone else chose to do to us against our will in our innocence.
        And Yes! Gratitude is huge. It is how I get through the day and choose to LIVE and not just exist.
        I think I need to move into the acceptance of some of what you have said. To know that this will be with me and I need to accept that there will always be some symptoms and I need to accept that and be ok with that

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve discovered that I can live with DID and use it to my advantage. The fact is my alternates all reflect different aspects of the same sensibility. As a person, I have a sense of morality, a love of learning, an appreciation for the arts, and a reasoned belief in the existence of a divine force. I’ve learned that when my alternates ‘unite’ we make a powerful person.

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  4. PS: Upon news that my dr was retiring next year, when he asked me if I had a preference, I covered my mouth and closed my eyes and said with a mixture of shame and honesty, “I don’t want a WASP.”
    It took him a few to register what I was saying, and our family name was added to an appropriate list.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your raw writing style. I admire the way you cut down to the bone.
    I think my eyes almost fell out after reading 80mg of Xanax. I can all too easily imagine the immunity of straight doctors during the early AIDS days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did I or my spell check say 80. Well I guess 8 milligrams of Xanax might as well be 80. I didn’t find out that Xanax was addicting until I decided to stop taking it and had seizures. That was a nightmare. Thank you for your comments on my writing. I was taught to cut anything that seemed extraneous and to use as few words as possible.

      Almost all of my three sentence paragraphs start off as four page expositions. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Insanity… I guess we keep trying the same thing and expect different results because we believe that there should be some good in people. We always hope. We can’t accept because it’s hard to believe that someone could be that way (specially if they are supposed to be the persons who love us the most).
    At least, I got to that conclusion… I couldn’t believe why my ex called me useless and “the worst thing that happened to me”. I stayed with him for a long time because that was really hard to accept and I thought he was just mad at the time(s).
    We want to be loved and we expect at least the love from our parent and partners… If that fails, well, I guess we get a bit screwed up 🙂
    (I hope I was clear enough) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were very clear. We want to believe that other people have some sense of responsibility, a heart, and that if they say they love us they mean that they want to be assets in our lives and to our journey. Who wants to believe that they shared their secrets with a sadist who will use the information for acts of psychological abuse. Sometimes we repeat these mistakes because we cannot fathom people who murder souls for pleasure.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “Why wouldn’t I identify with the only other people in my world who were subject to ridicule and random beatings?”
    wow. light bulb going on. in my world that was the Native American. still is, actually. The ones that couldn’t even play a role in a movie about a Native American – instead movie giants hired Latinos. I have no problem with Latinos. I have a problem with refusing to hire any culture because of bias against said culture. So I guess I understand that statement.
    Serious congratulations on year 6 of therapy – as long as it’s working. I quit after year 5 and never went back – so I admire anyone who is there after 6.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good for you! Nice job! The thing I have to remember right now is even if I fall on my face, it’s still forward movement and I get up further than when I fell. But I know those “no progress” days – still better than “backward moving” days 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When one is never allowed to make mistake or to even speak ones mind one also doesn’t gain the insight that progress in life requires risk and making mistakes. The fact that we have both learned this is a sign of our strength.

        Like

  8. What a testimony there, Robert. It was beautifully composed, hard to read, but easy to understand the best and most important line… that you now know the right questions to ask. That will go a long way in your recovery. Best to you always. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Another powerful post that I want to come back and reread. We have led such different lives. Our issues and illnesses are so different. And yet… there’s a thread of familiarity that runs through what you write and that I recognize and is one reason I keep reading. (One, of several.)

    Liked by 1 person

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