Even when I was still going through my experience, I knew that some of the psychological effects it was having on me were good things. Even so, for a long time, it was very hard for me to figure out what the good things were. I kept focusing on the bad things, some of which are, even now, very vivid in my mind. Probably one of the most important parts of my path to recovery was learning to identify the good things and focus on them.
Parts of the rest of this post are going to get very detailed because I don’t know how to talk about these things without the details of the events that lead to them; I will try to look at the details in a very clinical manner without a lot of emotional entanglements and I hope that will come through in such a way that it won’t upset my readers too much.
I want to start with an example of one of the bad things that consumed me for so long. This is probably one of the worst things to ever happen to me and definitely one of the most vivid things in my memory. It happened when I was around 15. By this time the beatings were less frequent because my brother and I spent less time together, but they were more severe because I had become stubborn and refused to give in as easily.
For a few weeks before this day, my brother had been spending all day, every day on our family’s only computer playing some game or another. While he was hogging the machine, I was becoming more and more anxious to work on some artistic project I can no longer remember for which I needed the computer. So, on this day, my brother finally left the computer and the house. I wasted no time in getting my project set up, but I had barely gotten started working when he came back with several of his friends. He ordered me to get up and when I refused to relinquish the computer time for which I had been waiting for days, he grabbed the back of the chair I was sitting in and pulled it over. The back of my head hit the filing cabinet and for a moment all I could see was blackness with little moving stars.
When my vision returned, I was still “sitting” in the chair and I could see my brother standing over me with rage in his eyes and his friends framed in the doorway behind him. It was a few seconds before I was able to move and then it was just to roll sideways out of the chair. My brother then picked up the chair and started getting back on the computer while I stared at the shocked faces of his friends. For one of a handful of times in my life, I was unable to hold back the tears until I was alone and I started to cry. When he heard my sobs, my brother stormed out of the house taking his friends with him and leaving me weeping on the floor with a lump on the back of my head the size of a tennis ball. To this day, I get nervous when someone puts their hand on the back of a chair I’m sitting in and have a full-blown panic attack if I accidentally lean back too far and feel like I might fall over. There is nothing good to come from this particular event and for years it and other events like it were all I could think about.
This next story took place when I was about 9 years old. I had a little Lego man named Red Hat (because he wore a red hat, get it?) and he found a magic window that led to a special world where everyone was friends and no one ever fought; the space Lego people were friends with the Lego pirates, the Lego pirates were friends with the Lego knights, and the Lego knights were even friends with the Lego dragon. Red Hat built the magic window into his house and would often go through it to visit the special world because he was unhappy with all the fighting in the real world. From a literary point of view this was all a very boring story, but from a psychological point of view it made perfect sense that this was the kind of fantasy world I would create, and I made a lot of similar worlds.
Anyway, one day, my brother saw me playing in my little Lego world, with the Lego castle and the Lego sea and everything arranged so carefully, and he said he wanted to play too. I didn’t want to let him into my perfect little Lego world, but as I looked at him I thought about how he would beat me if I said no, so I said yes. That’s how Red Hat’s brother Black Hat (because he wore a black hat, get it?) came to my Lego world, and with him came war and death and destruction. So much suffering that they had never known came to the citizens of my Lego world when my brother started to play in it. Of course, even if I had said no, my brother would have beaten me until I said yes and the end result would have been the same, but I still feel guilty about sacrificing them to save myself.
That was the start of the very important lesson that some things are worth fighting for even when you know you can’t win. It took other events and experiences for me to really learn that lesson, but I wouldn’t have learned it if I hadn’t been abused. My will to keep fighting even in the face of certain defeat and my drive to protect and defend others are some of the best things about me and they came about as a direct result of some of the worst things to ever happen to me. I am very proud of these things and they are what I focus on now. At first, it was a conscious choice and it was very difficult to do, but the more I forced myself to focus on the good things, the easier it became to do so and now, without even trying, I barely think about the bad things anymore.