On my blog entry entitled Worrying about Reactions to Your Child Abuse Story, a reader posted the following comment:
What do you do when even with minimal information (eg that my father sexually abused me) your friends avoid you because all they can think about when they see you is sad things? (Even if you don’t say anything about it and are only talking about happy things.) I just feel so lonely and so confused and don’t know what to do. ~ ericatherunnergirl
I, too, went through this with many of my friends in the early years of healing from child abuse. The surprising part to me was that even some of the people who took my news very well in the moment and said all of the right things pulled away after my disclosure.
One in particular was great at first – she made a point of making eye contact and saying, “This is NOT your fault. You need to understand that.” I sooo needed to hear that message and thought, “Wow. She gets it.” Then, crickets. I still bump into her from time to time, and she is as sweet as can be, but she pulled away when I needed her the most.
I think the problem is that emotionally unhealthy people attract emotionally unhealthy friends, so the pool of friends to choose from for support is likely not to offer the best choices. I am no longer friends with any of the ladies I used to hang out with before healing or during the early stages of healing. If we bump into each other, we’ll do the casual chit-chat thing (other than the one ex-friend), but I have healed too much for any of those friendships to work anymore.
If anyone had told me this would happen, I am not sure I would have had the courage to continue healing, and I sure would not have viewed this as a good thing. I had such a deep-seated fear of abandonment that I would have been scared to do anything to push away the people I loved … and I did love my friends.
In retrospect, I recognize that losing these unhealthy friendships cleared the way for healthy friends to enter my life. I have three close friends locally as well as many others who are not as close. All three close friends are much more emotionally healthy than any of the friendships that have fallen by the wayside, and all three of those friendships have room for me to be myself in them. I can talk about anything I need to, including the abuse — all three of them are happy to listen and can handle it.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt