The paradox of safety

I am currently living in a safe environment – the person that I’m living with is caring, attentive, patient, understanding, has never raised a hand to me, and isn’t abusive psychologically… the house I’m living in holds no memories of abuse… I’m no longer exposed to the tensions created by work pressures… Yet, I’m struggling so much…

Late last year I moved to a new country, and a new relationship. There were so many positives associated with the move – the environment I describe above being the most dramatic; but, there were also losses… no longer seeing Allison; being so far away from my family; the strangeness that occurs when you are a new immigrant to a country that seems familiar, and yet is so different. I wasn’t prepared for the level of stress that the change would create. I seemed to drift along on a tide of stress for months… it feels as if I still am drifting… I know that this isn’t always the case, and that at times I’m very connected to those around me, and feeling very grounded…

But, this isn’t one of those times.

I’m lost. I’m falling. I feel defeated.

When I made this move, I heard from several people who suggested that the move was just what I needed. There seemed to be this thought that if I moved to a positive environment, then I would be “fixed”. It felt like my struggles should disappear… that my eating disorder and dissociation would magically ease. The reality seems to be almost the opposite.

I’ve never lived in a safe environment before. I don’t know what to do with that safety. I don’t have the skills to recognise and understand what safety means. I look for danger that isn’t there. I lash out to test the people around me. I do all the dysfunctional behaviour that I hate to see within myself.

I hate myself in new ways and to new heights.

How can I be so ungrateful? How can I be so stupid, selfish and pathetic?

Apparently, very easily.

I’ve been so lost, that I’ve ignored the friends that I had made… I’ve lost so many positive connections over the last year… I make commitments to make efforts to reconnect, yet get swept away in another wave of stress instead. I wonder how much of that is me making excuses and being avoidant? I’m the Queen of Avoidance… Avoid thinking… Avoid feeling… Avoid connecting… Avoid seeing the pain that my actions create in others… Avoid… Avoid… Avoid… Avoid looking for a new therapist because the two I’ve tried have been poor therapeutic matches… Avoid… Avoid… Deny… Avoid… Deny… Deny…

Possibly the biggest problem that I’ve faced since the move is that I have no idea how to be a partner within a safe relationship… Allison once commented that I’d never seen a healthy relationship, and therefore I was attempting to learn totally new ways of being within my current positive relationship. What this means in a practical sense, is that my partner is trying to be with someone who is inconsistent, hides, and is often unable to communicate. I try to talk, but the internal noise that occurs whenever I try to verbalise a thought can be overwhelming… “you can’t say THAT… he’ll think you mean [something really bad]”… “just shut up and listen”… “I’m scared”… “you’re missing the point!! You’re SO THICK… he doesn’t mean [incident that happened yesterday], he means the process of the interactions”… There’s this constant level of noise, differing opinions, chaos, dysfunction, … SO MUCH NOISE!!!!!!

I can’t cope with it…

I want this relationship to work… I want to heal and get healthy…

I don’t know how to do those things…

I’m lost…

When I was in New Zealand, I knew the rules to get by… I know I was destroying myself in the process, but it was a game I was familiar with… I don’t know how to live within this new safe environment… I don’t know how to trust that environment… I don’t know how to navigate a healthy relationship…

I’m trying to learn, but seem to be failing.

Safety is meant to be what everyone wants, craves and needs… But, it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever encountered… It means being present and connected… I learned very early on that being present and being connected brought pain and abuse. How do I open up to those again?

The response I keep hearing is “You try…”

I’ve been trying… I seem to be failing…


8 thoughts on “The paradox of safety

  1. Hi CG,

    Beautiful post. You have an amazing insight into your situation.

    It may feel like you keep trying and failing, but I’m guessing it’s probably more realistically two steps forward and one step back. You are gaining ground. (I find myself feeling the same way. I know I’m doing better than I was a few years ago… but, so much of this moving forward feels like running face first into a brick wall!)

    Good to hear from you 🙂

    Take care,

    • Hi rl,

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it 🙂

      I wish I could believe your idea of it being two steps ahead… I think you’re probably right, but the step backwards are so painful and confusing. It does feel as if I’m constantly hitting a brick wall…

      I’m glad you can see the progress you’ve been making – I’ve seen that progress in your blog and twitter interactions 🙂

      Please take care,

  2. Hi CG,
    For me your feeling of safety as a paradox is perspicuous. I really understand why you’re struggling so much and how it must feel to be on unknown ground….. Safety… Trust… Relationship….
    I think for sure that it really takes a lot of time to cope with all these major changes you all gone through and experienced in a very short time. These changes would cause an absolute chaos inside of me too. Perhaps it would be helpful to make an internal conference to find out what others in your team need most in this time. Please, don’t give up in finding a good new thera!!! Building a support network seems most important to me.

    Thinking of you, a lot. Take care. Warmest safe hugs to all who want them

    • Hi LSC,

      Thank you so much for commenting, and please excuse my tardy response!!

      I’m trying to go a little easier on myself with regards to my levels of impatience about not coping. I had sort of got it in my head that I should be magically healed by being in a safe environment; but, that’s not the reality. I’ve gone through so many changes in the last six months, and I’ve always found change stressful… I’m definitely on the road to healing, as I can see the positive steps that I’m making; but, it’s taking time.

      I’ve yet to find a T that is a good therapeutic fit. I’ve become a little scared of looking, as it’s another reminder of how much things have changed, and how different the place where I’m now living is.

      I’ve never been able to have internal conferences, but am slowly filtering information through the system… It’s taking time and is faltering, but it’s there 🙂

      Thank you again for commenting… 🙂

      Please take care, and (((warm safe hugs to those who want them)))

  3. Big big hugs to you CG. You have gone through so much and tackled so much change in the last few months – kudos to you! And … Stop beating yourself up, puhlease GF. The changes you have made are enough to make even the most sane, rational, “normal” person feel overwhelmed by stress. I think you are doing an amazing, AMAZING job.

    I also think ur doing an amazing, AMAZING thing. New country, new culture, new people, new (healthy and safe) relationship. That you are willing to give these things a go makes you a huge success in my eyes. 😊

    One thought… I wonder if you feel like you’re decompensating because you’ve now been there long enough to feel a bit more “settled”. I’m thinking of a new job where, for the first little while, you have to concentrate on everything – new doors, new corridors, where is the kitchen? How does that copier work again? … Then, once you’ve settled in a little, you get sick! Usually just a cold or something, but apparently it happens because you start to relax, and your mind/body give up for a bit. Does that make sense?

    Hang in there, I think ur doing amazing stuff! Xo

    • Hi Kerro,

      Thanks for the vote of confidence!! 🙂

      Because this new environment is so different from anything that I’ve ever experienced before, it has been overwhelming. It’s taking time for me to trust and really understand that it is safe. I still look for the abuse to happen… expect it, even. That expectation and anticipation is really hard on me and my new partner. We’re trying to get through it all with communication, patience and understanding – thankfully he has all of that in abundance!

      In some ways, I am experiencing a bit of that adrenaline crash… But, it’s all still overwhelmingly different here… I’m struggling in so many ways, and get feelings of being lost and alienated really quickly. I know that I need to build a support network to help with those feelings, but I’m not so good at the whole networking and socializing thing :-/

      I know you’ve gone through so many changes over the last few years, it amazes me how well you’ve coped with it all…

      Please take care,

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