Being open to other people about the severe abuse I suffered as a child has been very challenging. At first, I wore a sign on my forehead that said, “incest” and when I shook hands with someone I would announce, “Hi, my name is Shirley and I’m a survivor of severe childhood trauma.”
I am not being literal, but that’s how I felt.
Trusting Too Much
I ate, drank, and breathed therapy and was totally wrapped up in my diagnosis. I was also too naïve to understand how people would react when they would learn I had dissociative identity disorder. I was open to the wrong people a majority of the time, including my family of origin, and a pastor I dearly loved.
My family of origin decided I was must be making things up, and the pastor was demon possessed and needed an exorcism then kicked me out of his church when I didn’t agree.
I was asked at a different church to give a speech for the women’s group on depression. Suddenly I became a social outcast. And members refused to sit with me in the same pew. Sometimes they refused to speak to me, as though I were somehow contagious.
Luckily, I never told them about my diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder or they would have really thought me a freak. I even was met at the door to my Sunday school class by my teacher who asked me not to speak in class because and I was too sick.
Clearly, the people I had tried to share my life with in the above paragraphs were dry wells.
My therapist Paula asked me a wise question, “Why do you keep going to empty wells for water when there are wells with water in them?”
Dry wells are arid, with nothing to offer but longing and dread. Wells full of water are refreshing, life-giving, and full of hope.
At first, I didn’t want to take her suggestion. In fact, I fought hard not to take her advice. I was afraid of losing the people I loved, even though they were of no help to me at all. I deserved, and still do, respect, dignity, trust and unconditional consideration, but the people whom I had been dealing with in my life couldn’t and wouldn’t give such support.
I Finally Understood
Finally, I began to comprehend what she was saying.
The people from which I had been trying so hard to earn love were truly dry wells.
I’ve experienced one full well in my life. When I first began therapy in 1989, I met Barb at a twelve-step program and we became fast friends. We understood one another, and I looked up to her as the big sister I never had.
We laughed, played and cried together for twenty-seven years until Leukemia took her life in 2014. The world grew much colder and my thirst became deeper after this wonderfully full well was no more.
I May Forever Struggle
I still struggle, and may forever, with understanding how to find full wells. I have so few in real life friends and have a grave need to isolate myself. I try to find places to interact with other humans in public. However, even though I can carry on a great conversation, I rarely form any kind of lasting bond with those I encounter in my life.
It’s not that I don’t want and need others, of course I do. It’s just I’m handicapped in social skills.
I desperately do not want to be old when I grow old, but I seem powerless to change my course.
Dry Wells are a Continual Source of Despair
Yes, dry wells are a continual source of despair. Yet, is very tempting to sit by them and believe they will someday fill with life-giving water. We think, if I am good enough, or pray enough, or give enough then the well will overflow with water and I’ll get my needs met. If I just wait long enough and sit right ere believing, the well will be full.
The reality is much starker. That dry well is going to always be a dry well. That will not change, no matter what we do.
They are empty.
The search for dry wells is long and hard for those of us who have survived severe childhood trauma. We want to trust but are terrified of it at the same time. Too many times in the past we have reached out for something from people we should have been able to trust, only to have it cruelly ripped away. So, we find ourselves in the predicament of trying to recognize who is truly a full well and those who only mascaraed as one.
I don’t have the answer as to how to find these wells, I only know that they are said to exist and that it is there that I will feel cared for and loved. It is there that I will find respect, and most of all, I will be honored for who I am not whom they wish me to be.
Our Journey Together
As survivors, we are on a journey together on this website. I have many followers from all over the world, but the thing that we all have in common is our human need to find wells full of water to quench our thirst for acceptance without having to pay our souls to get it.
I’m sharing my journey to finding these wells, and I hope it helps you feel less alone because you are not.
“Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Even tiny insects survive by mutual- cooperation based on innate recognition of their interconnectedness. It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence.” Dalai Lama