My good friend Kath warned me before I started digging into my old journals from the troubling times in my early teen years to make sure I was in the right mindset to do this and to have a plan to deal with any emotional responses I have from whatever I discover. This was fantastic advice and I am so happy she made me think about that before I did. So with a solid coping plan in place I dove in and what happened has been absolutely fascinating.
When I read my journal entries I am reminded of the emotions I had and the intention behind it. What’s also very interesting to me is the style I wrote in. From entry to entry I wrote in a different “person”. Some are told in the first person and in the present. Some are told in the third person like I was writing about someone else long ago but in reality it was what was happening to me at the time I was writing it. Just fascinating how my mind worked. I remember specifically that the way I wrote was implied that someone would read it, not in a personal(this is only for me)way. To that effect some of it is intentionally not honest or accurate with respect to my feelings. It was the emergence of a deeply rooted coping mechanism. Some of my entries are passive-aggressively attempting to control the emotional response of the reader to a specific conclusion: sympathy.
This coping mechanism led years of emotional dishonesty to almost everyone I’ve ever known. I think that as a child and adolescent I felt so powerless over my world that the only way for me to deal with my feelings of lonliness, self-loathing and shame over my sexuality was to use my skills of perception and empathy to manipulate. As an actor, I am great story teller. I know how to embellish and take artistic license to make a better story. The best way for me to explain this would be an example of a trait of mine specific to story telling:
I can’t think of more than a few movies, TV shows or book plots that I’ve read or seen in the last 25 years that has surprised me. I realize that Hollywood recycles plots and plot devices repeatedly and that this is not a particularly uncommon skill but I also know that my mind “plays the tape to the end” very quickly upon the start of a story. To this end, I know how it works. I know how they do it. It’s what makes me a good story teller and a completely effective liar.
It may sound like I am being very tough on myself. I am. This coping skill has allowed me to have control over uncomfortable situations I was not ready to process for a long time. Honesty, especially self-honesty, is one of the most important part of recovery, and this is one of my biggest challenges. Reigning in “Brenda” has helped with this. This has probably been one of the most scary and deeply intimate admissions I’ve made here, but it is important to me to work on changing my behavior with regards to this and start to be as honest and authentic as I can be.