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Archive for October 3rd, 2008

On my blog Coming to Terms With Kiddie Porn and Child Prostitution, deannandme asked the following questions:

So, Faith, or any of your readers, do you have issues of being “visible” to others, of feelings of extreme shame and vulnerability when you realize people can “see” you? I have a big aversion to being watched by others, and to having my picture taken, especially with a tv camera or home movie type device. Earlier in my life I suffered bouts of derealization whenever someone complimented me or enthusiastically praised something I did. I felt so “seen” and exposed!

Yes, I relate to this so deeply. Several of my offline survivor friends can relate as well.

I used to have a very hard time looking at myself in the mirror or having my picture taken. I was always extremely critical of how I looked. As I have healed, it is no longer much of an issue for me.

One of my survivor friends longs to be invisible. In fact, if she was not in a profession that would frown upon it, she would “go Goth.” I pointed out that people always turn to stare at women who are dressed “Goth.” She pointed out that they were seeing the makeup, not the woman underneath.

My sister, who suffered the same abuses that I did, is hypervigilent. She can actually “feel” people staring at her, even when they try to sneak up on her. She is extremely bothered by people looking at her. She also refuses to have her picture taken. I keep telling her that her children deserve to have the occasional picture of her, but she simply cannot do it.

As for being triggered by compliments, I have that issue in spades.

I am a very active volunteer at my child’s school. The principal nominated me for the volunteer of the month in our school system, and the school board selected me. I had been “on the wagon” with my eating disorder for 11 months, and that went down the toilet after I was selected.

Every member of the staff and many parents congratulated me. My picture was posted on the front door to the school. I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t know why.

An intuitive friend helped me to connect the dots. I was recognized in part for reading with kindergarten children and helping them learn to read. This was something private that I did to “pay forward” the kindnesses that I was shown when I was in school. If not for compassionate teachers, I don’t think I would have survived my childhood. While I was being told at home how worthless I was, my teachers saw me as precious. I want to pay that forward to other children who are hurting today.

What was such a private healing thing for me had a big, fat spotlight shone on it, and it triggered me in a powerful way. Even now, as I type this story, I have tears rolling down my face. My friend pointed out that “being seen” as a child was painful for me but that I needed to learn that “being seen” can be a good thing, too. I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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