What is the best way to get through/past/over the rush of emotions that come up when I think about abuse that happened to me in my adolescence? Also, how to deal with ambivalent feelings towards a relative who treated you badly in the past? Are there any books about this, fiction or non-fiction?
I am thirty years old, female, in therapy. I was partly brought up by an older male relative. Recently I have admitted to myself, with the help of the therapist, that some of his behaviour towards me during my adolescence could be described as abusive. I've tried to rationalise this over the years as a typical teenager-parent conflict, mostly because I still have contact with him and have to play nice, but I've come to see that a lot of the ways I was treated were simply not OK.
I haven't talked about this to many people and have never opened up about certain parts of it before. In therapy, I'm starting to see connections between my experiences as a teenager and some of my problems now; I think in the long run it will be helpful for me to get this stuff out in the open and deal with it. In the meantime, though, I have a lot of old emotions and specific memories washing around near the surface—anger, sadness, trappedness, disgust—and sometimes they come up and get overwhelming.
I now live a long way from home and have an amazingly supportive partner, on whose shoulder I've cried a few times about this. I/we still visit, though. I usually find being around this relative very stressful—even though his behaviour to me these days is less objectionable. There are even some aspects of spending time around him that I enjoy: talking to him about history he has experienced or specialist topics he is interested in, for example. On the other hand, I find myself overreacting to small things with the emotions above, and having to somehow keep it quiet because a simple joke shouldn't make me feel so upset. I also feel fear because he is unpredictable (although I don't fear physical violence nowadays). Again, this is likely out of proportion to anything I really have to fear from him. It's very tiring. Cutting off contact (as MeFi often advises) might make things simpler but really isn't possible because he is a central part of my extended family.
My questions are:
- This is normal, right? If I can somehow work through all this stuff, will it stop being such a raw issue for me, and the sudden washes of emotions and memories stop being so jarring?
- How can I best deal with them in the meantime, both in my everyday life and when I'm back home visiting?
- Can anyone recommend any books that might be helpful in this situation? As well as books for people who have experienced abuse, I am interested in fiction, and in books dealing with ambivalent feelings towards a family member (enjoying some things about them, still feeling fond of them because they're family, resentment and anger when thinking about abusive behaviour in the past, not being able to get away from them because they're family).
Of course I am discussing all this with my therapist but I thought I would ask the green for any other thoughts you can offer. Thank you.
Wow, it's hard actually using the a-word in this question. I'm going to hit post before I second-guess myself any more about it.