Pessimism. Who Needs It? What Could Possibly Be The Attractions?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Pessimism. Who Needs It? What Could Possibly Be The Attractions?

I’ve had an interesting day today. I had an interview for a job which went surprisingly well, although I probably won’t get it. I also had my penultimate counselling session this morning.

As always during my counselling session, we discussed a range of things. Some going over old ground and some thought provoking discussions. However, we also discussed thoughts and feelings and considered my views on events and the future. I’ve decided that, by nature I have a pessimistic view to life. Just look that the first paragraph again. You can see the negativity following the good interview statement.

Pessimism is a safety net

When I think about it I have always had a ‘half empty’ view of life. I think it is the fail safe for a great number of people. If we prepare for the worst then we are ready for it when it happens. Anything positive is, therefore, a bonus. It must be a psychological safety net. There is nothing wrong with being safety conscious in the crazy world we now find ourselves living in.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Pessimism. Who Needs It? What Could Possibly Be The Attractions?

But pessimism is not such a bad thing really. My counsellor gave a brilliant analogy. She stated that it is a good defence mechanism. “If the caveman” she said “had not had an element of caution then the human race might have been wiped out”. I further endorsed this by mentioning that the Do-do became extinct (partly) because it had no fear of humans – laughably I considered that the Do-do was not stupid, it was an optimist.

I could have started this blog by saying that it would have been an utter waste of time writing it. Nobody would read it and if they did I would only get negative comments. I would then probably cry into my coffee and go to bed. Undoubtedly, I would be pelted with rotten vegetables as I head out to the shops. But it hasn’t happened – ever. Even after taking the first steps into the world of writing where I was at my most vulnerable.

Past giving a hoot.

As time has developed during my writing, I have been more and more open and honest. I have left myself exposed to critism and perhaps even ridicule. But no, it hasn’t happened. I’ve not been looking for it because that kind of ‘thing’ finds you. I’m sure people do have a negative view about what I have said but I have probably, unconsciously, dismissed it.

It doesn’t mean that what I say, write or do is correct. It just means that my ‘defensive pessimism’ has worn off a little bit and I am delighted to call myself a ‘writer’.

But why are we drawn to pessimism?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Pessimism. Who Needs It? What Could Possibly Be The Attractions?

Why do we read writers who are profoundly pessimistic? And what sense are we to make of their work in our ordinary, hopefully not uncheerful lives?

I’m lucky enough to write two blogs. This one of which I consider to be deep and meaningful. I hope people heed my words or value my advice and perhaps act upon it. My other blog (www.thecheltenhamhurrah.com) is a look at the funny side of life in my (now) hometown. It is a comedy poke at life that I hope entertains. It has ‘throw away’ comments that I hope people giggle at then move on to their next activity. Two very opposite characteristics that feed off each other amazingly well. But not all pessimists have the same fondness for my kind of comedy which is perfectly ok. On both blogs I cater for those that want to read them. Not for people who dismiss them.

It’s all very entertaining

Modern society as a whole, tends toward a sort of institutional pessimism. Soap operas are based upon negative situations and ‘bust ups’ in the local pub, people sleeping behind the backs of other people and so on. Yet we see this as a form of entertainment. We watch people being banished to remote islands to watch them fail in their endeavours. People are put into a locked house and we watch them argue and fall out. Yet we are encouraged to believe happiness is at least potentially available for all as the ‘dramas’ fade into another story.

But when we look at life we can see that it is filled with misery and pain and if we managed to escape these, boredom would lie in wait at every corner. In effect, we have embraced the evil side of life. The ‘baddy’ in films always has the nice car, nice clothes and is the best character to play. In general, playing the baddy is always the most sought after by actors around the world. There would be no story without one. The news headlines always tell us negative stories. Occasionally a happy story comes along about a dog who can talk or something, yet we still watch the news – sometimes four times a day. Why? Well perhaps we like to know that other people lives are worse than ours.

Pessimism? It could be worse.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Pessimism. Who Needs It? What Could Possibly Be The Attractions?

When I think about it we always moan about the negative person in the office or down the pub. I have found myself avoiding these people on a number of occasions. I may have crossed the road or dived into a shop before I was spotted. But think of the alternative. The over-happy, in your face, type of person is even worse to endure. We leave that kind of person for children’s TV (where they belong). So being a pessimist is not such a bad thing after all.

Yes, I’m a pessimist but it could be worse. By saying that am I now an optimist?

The Fear Of Not being Believed

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed

Not being believed is one thing, but having to retell the events over and over again to get people to listen to you involves reliving the events you have tried to bury. And I just don’t know which is the worst.

For me, telling and retelling the catalogue of events felt like a constant kick in the head. I have had to bat off the quizzical expression and the occasional uplifted l eyebrow. I eventually wondered if my story was too much to be believed and started to consider that my comments were hollow and my hopes of being believed unrealistic.

Is it too high a price?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed
High price

The real challenge of not being believed is how big the price will be. It took all of my courage to try and take my self-respect back and fight against the abuse. It was a dreadful step to reveal the shame of being both abused by my partner but also to reveal a lifelong condition of depression.

I had spent all my life hiding the depression from everyone, and revealing it broke my life long conventions. To add to this exposure, I also admitted that I, a fully grown adult male, had been abused by my female partner. Shame on me, this was not supposed to happen. But to admit all that was only half the problem. The other half was not only being disbelieved but to trying to get support from quarters I had expected more from.

I am sure that my ex knew she was doing wrong. Not just once, but every time she let the abuse happen. This was why, during her nice periods, she used so many words to convince me that I had asked for it. And I initially believed her words.

Once I had the awareness that the way I was living was wrong, it took a whirlwind of thoughts to make a plan of action. I was sure I would be believed, I had to be because I was telling the truth. People had to be able to see that? Even the police.

Physical Abuse vs Emotional Abuse

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed
Abuse

It’s strange how people still see physical abuse as “real” abuse and mental/emotional abuse as, a case of ‘get over it’. Both types of abuse are horrible and utterly unacceptable. The scar on my hand from a burn is healing. But words never heal, they never seem to want to leave me. And the deeper hurts have never been forgotten.

I can’t remember the first time I felt the sharp pain of a cane on the back of my legs from my adopted mother. But I can vividly recall the moment she pointed her finger at me, saying that I was “worthless and would amount to nothing”. After a while, when it is physical pain you learn to ‘harden up’ as you know how it feels when you know it’s coming. But words are unpredictable and knock you off your balance when you least expect it.

I had equally forgotten the first time my ex punched me in the ribs saying it was a joke. But I can now recognise that she had had a life time of inflicting misery on everyone she met. The only difference was that I wanted to fight back. And my arsenal included the weapon of honesty. Her’s was one of denial.

The need for acceptance is like an addictive drug. You need more to feed the habit of desire. The need to be desired by others. And to be loved by someone who seems to be making it difficult. I needed all this from both my ex and my adopted mother because I needed convincing that I had a value in somebody’s eyes (if not my own).

All of this led to a disbelief of my own place in this world. As a result, I believed the untruths to accommodate my own beliefs of right from wrong. As a result, if I couldn’t believe myself, who would believe me when I called out for help?

Listening

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed
Listening

Sometimes when I used to speak to my counsellor, I wondered if she questioned the validity of what I had to say. She appeared honest and kind (and still does), but when I left I often asked myself if she believed me because she had to rather than wanted to. I didn’t blame her. It’s a natural reaction to have a question of doubt. It’s a defensive mechanism I suppose. Even more so when it is a male is talking about being abused by his female partner. Society still has a problem with this concept.

Things changed when I took the time to talk about the history of my events. She implied that she did have a pre-conceived ‘story’ in her head about the events. Now I had clarified things a little she seemed to have a better grasp of where I was coming from.

At that moment, I felt believed. It gave a sense of relief.

Quest to be believed

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed

It felt like a breath of fresh air when I knew I was being believed. However, it was naturally short lived. Like the addictive drug I needed to feed my validation. I wanted more people to believe me now the ‘cat was out of the bag’. I wanted to share the fact that I was now convinced that what had happened was wrong and I needed to convince others around me.

At the heart of my denial was a core belief system. Mothers should love their children. Fathers should support their children. And partners should ‘love and cherish.’ It flies in the face of what I now know to be true. It is wrong that a Mother have no empathy for her children. It’s beyond comprehension that a father believes the worst about his children. It is crushing that a partner would degrade the very person they vowed to “love.” It just appears to be all wrong. It couldn’t possibly have happened. But, it did.

My abusers knew it flew in the face of what was morally right and each of them used words to convince me that I deserved it, or I had asked for it. Their justifications were the flip-side of my expectations of right from wrong.  If I had not believed their actions to be wrong, then I wouldn’t have been in denial.

I still fear not being believed. All the courage I have summoned to leave myself exposed and vulnerable to other peoples’ picking has been life changing. I have held everything I value up high for other people to value or disregard as they see fit. And this is hard. All my ‘dirty little secrets’ have been forced out of me and it is difficult to cleanse, even more so when people are willing to walk all over it in the name of  belief.

I have spoken after years of saying nothing. I just want to be heard. Not judged or disrespected. Just heard.

Anxiety After Abuse

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse

Anxiety is a good thing. It stops you from heading into dangerous or unusual situations. It is a normal reaction to things that we dread.  For example, as a teenager, I always felt anxiety before entering the exam hall. As an adult, I get anxious everytime I have to have a blood test – I just hate needles. I have known other people become anxious if they spot a spider within close proximity. Everytime I get anxious my mouth goes dry, my breathing increases and I feel light headed. Sometimes I sweat and I can hear my heart racing. But this is normally a short lasting period of panic.

There is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s good and it’s natural.

But what is life like when anxiety takes over everything?

Earth shattering legacy

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse
Shattered

I have given this some thought today. The only example I can give is that after an earth quake (depression) there is always an after shock (the anxiety). After having my personality shattered I then started to question what I knew or understood. This led to having anxiety about doing normal everyday things that I had previously taken for granted.

My anxiety gave rise to other psychological problems. Such as:

These feelings became a problem when they were too strong to deal with. My anxiety generally made my life difficult and making choices even harder.

Domestic abuse and anxiety

Following research, it has been established that sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse experience increased levels of anxiety. Living in constant stress or fear can indeed create a constant raised level of anxiety.

I always lived in fear of what I would expect to find when I got home from work. The above examples of how I felt (dry mouth, increased heart rate and so on) was often a characteristic of my journey home. However, I could also add the churning feeling inside my stomach. Once home, I would feel anxious about her ever-changing moods and behaviours. This anxiety was a result of living in fear. And this living fear became a habit which increased my anxiety and depression. And so, the constant cycle continued.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse

Constant high anxiety

When I found that my living conditions were stressful I had no opportunities to off load, other than going to work. I was not allowed out on my own and I had to contact my partner at least three times a day when I was at work (sometimes I had to include a photo so she could see I was in uniform). I had no opportunity to relax or de stress. Also, I couldn’t socialise with friends or family and so had no escape from the captivity I found myself in. What was worse was that a home should be a haven yet it became my prison.

However, what I found once I had left was that the same levels of anxiety still existed. I had learnt that following the lack of support I had received, and the lack of help from the authorities the world is a dangerous place. I felt vulnerable and often experienced nightmares. In effect, the life I had led remained after leaving the environment. Now, I have become accustomed to the feelings of fear and vulnerability even though I was no longer living under that regime.

Further research found that people who are exposed to any form of abuse or persecution, tend to develop extreme social anxiety, or/and stress related illnesses. Sadly they can also develop confusion over their own identities.

Anxiety after domestic abuse

Lasting effects

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse
Lasting effects

Emotionally abused people can experience post-breakup symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I worked out I had PTSD after taking a walk one afternoon.  I heard a song that she used to like and my mind was rushed back to a moment I heard it in the kitchen. This time in the kitchen was when she said she was going to have me killed. Other occasions also cause PTSD such as smells, colours and even types of cars. My mind would associate these ‘items’ with periods of stress and unhappiness. As a result it took me a while to try and do normal things like listen to certain songs. Even shop in certain supermarkets. I no longer visit certain places, not only for the fear of bumping into her but because these places have so much association with the cause of my problems.

Anxiety has left me hesitant although I am able to often hide it well. My anxiety has taught me to be even more suspicious of authority or kind actions by others.

I know that this will be overcome. It has to. I have a lot of support in place and I have created nice, easy personal goals to give me a level of achievements of which to reflect upon. The abuse left a long dark shadow that created, depression, PTSD and anxiety. With enough light and reflection this shadow will recede and I will be able to replicate the person I eventually want to be.

Socialising With Depression

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Socialising With Depression

When I say socialising with depression I don’t mean going for a drink with your mate who happens to be called depression. It means leaving the house with an overshadowing feeling of guilt and pain.

Attempting to socialise when you can barely live with yourself is incredibly hard. Being able to put a smile on your face and tell everyone that everything is ok can be difficult or a normal part of your day.  You’ve been doing it for so long that it becomes the norm.

I found that not socialising or even going out was right for me at the early stages of my depression. I didn’t want to go out. Mixing with other people – even complete strangers in supermarkets, felt personal and imposing. It’s crazy to think it but you feel people are judging you without knowing what you are going through. In fact it’s hard work to act ‘normal’.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Socialising With Depression

Recovery

Part of my recovery came in slow steps and still is. On reflection I can see how it developed. I was encouraged to attend counselling (see blog on talking) which stimulated my need to get out of bed and leave the house. From there I was further encouraged to attend the gym. Now see this from my point, firstly, as I have previously stated, I was never one for talking (as I saw myself as a pillar of masculinity – see blog on why men and depression..) and secondly, I was never one for the gym (not with my white chicken legs). But this created a routine that has been crucial to my recovery.

Don’t get me wrong, I went out occasionally between trips of routine. I might have a coffee in a café but I was happy to sit in a corner and people watch (which is enjoyable in itself). But I felt this was something I should be doing as opposed to something I wanted to do.

Work face and home face

We all have different persona’s for different social situations and to overlap these can be both personal and encroaching. At work I was expected to be strong and supportive for other people – perhaps this was my own standard. But hiding my pains and difficulties became a normal act. At home and inwardly, I was a mess and I didn’t want people of whom (I suspected) respected me for the characteristics I was willing to share publicly. Letting work colleagues see the other side of my character was a personal difficulty.

Leaving do

Before all this happened, I had been invited out to a work mates leaving do. This had been planned for a while. Whilst with my ex I was often discouraged from going out with my work colleagues or socialising without her presence.

I found it both hard and hurtful to think of excuses why I couldn’t go whilst protecting my ex from her own stupidity and maintaining my socialising standards amongst my friends. But I was really looking forward to seeing my work mates after a reasonable period of time not seeing them.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Socialising With Depression

Going out

At least for a day or so prior to the leaving do I started to consider not going.

  1. I wouldn’t be missed if I wasn’t there
  2. I was too tired to attend
  3. It would feel awkward seeing people who would assume negative reasons for not being at work
  4. I felt a sense of same about my depression

I was finally encouraged to go by close friends. It came as the 11th hour to pick myself up and break with the routine of not going out to the pub or out in the evening.

I purposely arrived an hour later than the invitation time set. A few people were already there but what instantly struck me was how pleased those few people were to see me. The smiles felt genuine, but what is important to state is that no one asked or put pressure on me to say why I had not been around. I will stress that because of the shifts and work patterns of my job, it is not unusual to go for a period of time without crossing other people’s paths. Of course, one or two people there knew why I was off but they made me comfortable, didn’t judge and actually made me smile.

I left earlier than everyone else but that was because I was tired. Socialising when suffering with depression is hard work and, I will admit, it left me shattered.

Sharing

From the outset I was not going to hide the fact that I was suffering with depression and PTSD. I was adamant that if anyone asked I was going to tell them.

It transpired that many other people there had either been a sufferer previously or knew someone that was. This was refreshing and I felt it very supportive to think that other people were both ok with it and it almost seem normal to have such a condition.

The following day I received a text from an ex boss who attended the social event. He stated that he was pleased to see me and was glad that I was there. It was nice that he took the time to send the message but it was also nice to consider that my presence was valued.

A short step for normality, a massive step for recovery

Furthermore, breaking away from a controlling relationship still leaves scars of guilt when you do things beyond the norm (see choosing my own clothes). I initially felt twangs of guilt for going out alone and still considered asking for receipts for drinks (see financial blog).

What I’m trying to say

Recovery is long and hard. But you must socialise with the people you care about as soon as you feel fit. Furthermore, don’t be ashamed of depression. It’s not a badge of honour,. We should all feel proud that we have survived what is an extremely difficult time.

 

Why Socializing Can Let You Down When You’re Depressed

Depression: Surviving Socialising

 

PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship

Making sense of PTSD

Having now left an abusive relationship I found that struggles began in other areas. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) became a daily (and nightly) problem. For me this didn’t make any sense, here I was now free of any form of abuse -although I was struggling with depression. Yet I was experiencing all manner of ‘flashbacks’. Furthermore, there was no initial trigger or understanding why they were happening. The worst was waking up following a bad dream thinking she was in the room with me.

Having to admit to being a male victim of domestic abuse (especially sexual assault) was extremely difficult. Perhaps these episodes of PTSD was a way of venting this frustration against a world of whom I considered did not care – this was enforced and endorsed by the police who failed to react or support me in my claims.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship
Flashbacks hurt

My experience of PTSD

Enduring any length of abuse whether physical, emotional, sexual or psychological will leave some form of mark. Some domestic violence survivors, like myself, will suffer PTSD. Suffering these emotions does not indicate any form of weakness.  I have had to deal with my PTSD which has made me relive my ordeal through flashbacks and nightmares that have interfered with my ability to function normally on a daily basis. This has often left me tired or uninterested in doing daily activities. Further symptoms are listed below

The symptoms of PTSD can include

  • Intrusive memories of the abuse – this can come following certain songs or smells or even being in certain places at certain times. There are no strict rules to this – it can just happen anywhere at any time.
  • Loss of interest in other people and the outside world – I found that I isolated myself from friends and was happy to stay indoors.
  • Insomnia (see my post on depression and sleep)
  • Agitation – I found that I would often jump at the slightest movement by other people
  • Depression – (see my article on depression)
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, fear, despair, guilt or self-hatred. I questioned my self worth. If I could allow one person to do these things to me what was my true worth?
  • Physical pain that migrates throughout the body. I experienced headaches and joint pains.
  • An inability to imagine a positive future (why depression makes you feel guilty)

Following research I found that these symptoms will last for at least a month and can occur either directly after the trauma, or be delayed, beginning six months, a year or 20 years after the abuse has ended.

 Treatments

Everyone recovers at their own pace. As a minimum you should be seeking help and support from your doctor.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship
Medications.

I had to move to temporary accommodation and as a result I registered with the local GP there. I must stress that from the outset they were fantastic. She took the time to listen to events and and aftershocks. I was prescribed medication for both my depression and my sleep problems (see my relationship with medication).

My work supplied and paid for counselling sessions. Initially, I was cautious about sharing my thoughts and experiences with a complete stranger but she allowed me to work at my pace.

Afterwards

I wondered if the effects of abuse would ever go away. Yes, I am still jumpy at times and I still experience thoughts following certain triggers but I recognise these now and can prepare myself for this. I have not fully recovered but I sense a certain amount of freedom from PTSD. There was a time when I stayed silent about the abuse but a part of my recovery was to share what happened either with friends or by writing it down (via this blog), medication, counselling and a slow recognition of my own self-worth.

http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/ways-to-care-for-a-loved-one-undergoing-ptsd-k0717/

Dealing With PTSD Symptoms After Leaving Abuse

Lets talk about it. Does counselling help?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Lets talk about it. Does counselling help?

Taking the step to seek support

Does counselling help?

For the first time I decided to open up about what had truly happened at home. I opted not to stay silent anymore and talk about it.

It was not easy to admit that I had been abused by my partner. The agony of sharing details related to sexual abuse was deeply shameful. I felt, and still feel that I would not be believed. To my surprise my manager was very understanding. As a result  counselling was instantly offered. Throughout my life I had been wary of attending such things but I felt that I had nothing left to loose by going ahead and see what they had to offer.

As you could expect I had lost all faith and trust in any form of authority and so approached my first visit with some caution. Thoughts an feelings had (and still are) being shared. It has only been in the last week (four weeks after the arrest) that I am able to see things a little bit clearer now.

A roller coaster of feelings

It has been a roller coaster of emotions and feelings. Suicide has not been far from my thoughts as the system it feels, is clearly stacked against me. I’m not allowed to see my daughter. I’m suspended from work, and social workers have not been doing their job properly by keeping me up to date. The police were utterly useless

As requested I attended the police station following my 101 call. The police were utterly useless. In fact I had bought it to their attention that whilst I was there, not a single note had been taken. It was quiet clearly a waste of everyones time.

Dazed – mental health and men not talking about it