Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't Touch Me

I am 29 years old.  I have been married for five years and a mother for a little less than that.  More than likely there won't be any more children for me.  I can't allow my husband to be near me.  At first I think I am just getting back on my feet after a torturous birth followed by the subsequent bearing of my inner demons.  I am wobbly on my mother-feet. I am a hyper-vigilant demon suppressor.

There is a lot of discontent between my husband and me.  He is affectionate.  I am cold.  An embrace makes my skin crawl, holding hands is a trap.  Sex is unthinkable.  In looking back I realize I have always been this way to some extent.  I have always thought it to be a compulsion born of the freedom to make my own decisions about how my body will be handled now that I am free from my childhood. But why, really, do I not choose these pleasant endearments like everyone else does?  It has never made sense, but at all cost I have avoided the confusion of feeling so fearful about such affections by never being in the same room as my husband, certainly not the bedroom. 

The only person in my life whom I can hold and who's hand fits in mine in such a fateful way that I never want to let go is my daughter. When she beckoned to me from the cosmos, all things were possible- the instinct to bring her forth made love-making tolerable- even pleasant. I have noticed that my brother is the same way, a new man around his son, affectionate and  amenable- not his usual grumpy, distant self.  I have spent many a cup of tea with his wife, trying to answer to his cool resolve to stay away from her, yet keep her near. I realize now that I do it too and therein lies a commonality that cant be denied.

We were orphans amongst family. We were driven apart as siblings. We were distanced from peers. We toiled with our bodies, until we couldn't feel them anymore. My body was sullied by perversity, his by violence.  Somewhere along the line, we left our bodies behind and found sanctity in dissociation. It served us so well- such perfectly invisible mind-armor.  Now we don our mental chain-mail - impervious to dangers that are no longer a real threat. Formative years of never being held, never being tenderly kissed, never having our hands taken by protective adults, never being tucked in- never being loved have made us inaccessible. We seem forever locked away in a turret guarded by memories past, defense mechanisms present. 

I work on the premise that what our children don't know won't hurt them, until the fighting begins. I have no excuses.  I don't know why our perfect love is so ruined by this invisible haunt who whispers untruths to me. I hear it warn that if my husband holds me I will have to feel something unfamiliar.  I am told that this waxing discomfort will escalate into irreconcilable alarm, pain, panic, breakdown and as always a marathon mind-meander to a place I cannot come back from at will.  

My life is perfect and it is ruined.

I finally realized that I was like those orphans who are left in their cribs only to receive the absolute least care and affection they can get in order to survive. After reading about a study that revealed that these children developed severe aversion to being held and looked at- even spoken to, I began to look at my own life as a child. There was no love. There was no affection. The touch that I received was destructive to say the least. In my marriage, it was safe to say no.  The body memories rushed me, panicked me and the only answer was to heed what my instincts told me- touching was bad.

It was my brother who eventually put a name to it- Attachment Disorder:

"Also known as a reactive attachment disorder, attachment disorder in adults is a problem that begins in the most impressionable years of childhood and manifests itself over time into adulthood in a much severe form. The reason for this may be neglect by parents, separation from parents due to death or divorce, or physical or sexual abuse during childhood. Due to these circumstances, children slowly develop feelings of detachment, in that they fail to form long and lasting relationships with anyone and find trusting even their close ones difficult. If not checked at the right time, this continues into adulthood, and ultimately becomes a serious psychological disorder. Fortunately, treatment is possible to a certain extent and is extremely important at the earliest, simply because it is relationships that form the important bonds in life and every effort should be made to nurture and maintain them. Moreover, the symptoms of this disorder may become severe enough to lead to dangerous self-destructive behavior."

In the words of a good friend to which I agree to: These guys have a very robust and non-deterministic theory, in other words they identify factors that contribute to attachment difficulties, no matter how extreme AND believe that there is a way of offering help. happy to disagree on this, there is no single "correct" theory and certainly no easy answers, that don't involve personal pain and despair.

Also from my friend: This is Margaret Warner who has formulated a person-centred, non medicalised process model of distress. We can all have something like fragile process at difficult times but it is very evident amongst people who have trauma and abuse in their histories. She's one of the sanest, least egotistic people that I have come across in this field.
Download the Podcasts Audio Books | Margaret Warner Fragile Process

Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, PTSD, Anxiety, Self-harm, Cutting, Depression, Survivor, Survivor of childhood abuse, Postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, OCD, Recovered memories, Repressed memories, Spousification, Stockholm Syndrome, Suicide, Teen Suicide, bullying, drug abuse, incest, memoir, Attachment Disorder, reactive Attchment Disorder


  1. my husband was in an adoption place for 6 months before he was adopted. then he had surgery and had to recover from that in a hospital. he doesn't much like to be touched, except possibly by me.-Bethany

    1. Sad. I am glad he sees you as a trusted source of affection. Yes, a lot of kids who spent time in orphanages, etc., end up having a hard time with attachment to some degree.

  2. My childhood was so different--the abuse, so different, but the reaction, so much the same. i reached the point of "serious self harm" by age 15--and was lucky enough, after my 3rd attempt at suicide, to get help. The abuse in some ways was never discussed in my therapy. It was "so normal" i hardly thought of it as abuse. I continued it, when i left home and married young.

    My husband became my new abuser. it felt right--If love is being hurt, than his hurting me was a sure sign of love. It was through my children, my love for them, that i learned true love.
    My ex thinks we should be friends.. (he still wants a relationship!) and is bewildered that i don't want anything to do with him. I don't hate him (i did for a while) --but i sure don't want him to be part of my current life!

  3. hmm. Ive done this. I thought it was just my depression. well I think it is. even though I wasn't abused can this happen to cancer patients? or Depression patients? My poor husband can't get near me to have sex with me. I know that a hug or a kiss will lead to lots more so I tend to avoid it all together. I was to a point where just him touching me would make me physically cring. I thought maybe my hormones were the culprit. Im getting better by forcing myself to realize that he is not the enemy. and that the more I practice touching him in not sexual loving ways I cant start to trust him. but its a long road. maybe Im reading into it. what do you think?

  4. I can only comment with a major disclaimer that i am not a professional, etc. :) When I am depressed ( meds are off) I definitely get more stand-offish. One thing that I have noticed is that if I can just neutralize, try to erase any concepts from my mind that this is a problem and press the restart button- just jump in, it really helps. It also helps me to makes sure to stay in the game- sex every week so it doesn;t become this big dark looming fear thing.
    Are you truly in love and happy and feeling safe i your partnership? Is he affectionate besides just wanting sex?
    These are my thoughts. I hope they help. :) Cairn

  5. Sometimes I worry that I may be falling out of love. But then I think of the past 13 years with him and how safe I am with him. How much he absolutely loves me. Safety is definately not an issue. I'm just broken. and honestly he deserves better.

  6. Hmmm, sounds like you have some deep thinking to do. I am sorry you are in thissituation. It's hard- I know.

  7. To "anonymous", I don't think you are ARE deserving of him. It pains me to hear people describe themselves as "broken". I get it, completely...but you are not broken. You are hurting.

    To Cairn...thank you for bringing this up, it is something I have had to really work hard on. I have a tough time not being suspicious of someone who IS truly kind, giving, patient, etc. I'm thinking, "What is being hidden? When is the other shoe going to fall?" Instead of getting offended by my behavior, someone has to be VERY patient with me, period. Time will prove to me that the person IS different. That and reassuring me, a LOT, that he is not like others who have lied to me and used me. Being open with his life, not because I am an insecure person, I am not...but because he has an understanding that my life has been hell.

    I am very quick to slam the door on people, male or female (but especially male), who know my story and my relationship issues and still insist on disrespecting my trust issues. I have restricted or eliminated quite a few lately, from my life, who I now realize do not have my best interests at heart, only their self serving garbage.

    1. It is something I have to work on consistently in my life. This post brought a lot of stuff up for a lot of people who are all at different places in their lives.