The many forms of insecurity


It may have started when the abuse did -at age 12, but I don't remember ever sleeping well, and I almost never dream. All these decades later, I still spend countless hours walking around a darkened house, looking out each window to confirm everything is alright. It's my "sentry duty." Protecting my family and the life we've built.

By day, my activities and routines never vary much either. In fact, doing the same things the same way provides a much-needed sense of security, safety and control about life. And consistency, reliability and dependability are qualities I strive for in myself and also value in others.

Although it may appear to the world that I have it all together, inside, I feel like a fraud. Years ago someone told me that the one and only person worth competing with is the man you meet at the mirror each morning as you shave. (Right. Tell that to a perfectionist!)

I just wonder how other guys cope. Thanks.


This sounds like you are describing me, HenryD. I sleep restlessly at best but I do dream and sometimes have nightmares. The walking around at night "checking on things" is familiar and bothers my wife & children but it seems to be a compulsion I can't quite control.

I like my routine and crave order. I pride myself on being organized, caught-up on my work, tidy, and punctual. Those are great qualities, perhaps, but they hide the turmoil inside.

Therapy has helped a LOT as well as talking with others and discussing this. Discovering I was not alone in this helped me a lot.

Last year I started forcing myself to be a bit more flexible AND create more time in the evening to relax. At first my family thought it was a joking matter when I started varying my routine and trying to be less "uptight" and that bothered me. But recently my son-in-law said, "You seem more relaxed lately." That meant a lot to me.
I've lived in the same cottage for thirty years and for me it is my safety zone. When my former wife said we had to move to a larger home after spending six years in 400 square feet, I freaked and she moved without me. That was in 1996. I'm not overly OCD but I really need consistency and routine to feel steady in myself. I've become aware the last year how hyper-vigilance is at the heart of my being. Talking about these things here helps a great deal. Being aware of all these remnants of trauma helps incredibly in releasing them. I'm learning so much about myself and how limited I've been because of terror I hadn't even known existed in me. This is hard work but the benefits are wonderful.
I spent much of my childhood lying awake at night with stomach pains suffering alone because I could not wake my parents every night with stomach complaints. I knew I was probably not going to barf so I would sit and read or do puzzles until I could finally go back to sleep. I'm not sure how I made it thru school with so little sleep. I continue to have sleep issues as an adult. It varies over time. Sometimes I sleep decent, sometimes not at all. I've also continued to have stomach pains all my adult life. When I can't sleep I don't get out of bed just on principle. I will read for a bit. For me I tend to fall asleep but wake in the middle of the night just like I did as a kid. Often I am anxious when I wake.
It's impossible to sleep with stomach pains. As a teen I remember I could only fall sleep lying belly down for years because it hurt so much in any other position.

As a child, falling asleep in bed alone I would hear 2 male voices talking above me, in the dark of the spirit world. It was a foreign language to me, they spoke really fast in whispers. At first it bothered me, then I realized they were looking out for me, helping me, and I welcomed my guardian angels when they came, as I fell asleep faster. Later in my 30s the whisper voices returned for a bit. I would like them to come back, soon is fine.

These days I take meds to sleep more than 4 hours in a row, anxiety issues. When I can't sleep with meds, I work to distract myself, then catch a few hours more sleep just before the real alarm clock is set to go off. Exhaustion usually makes me sleepy.
These things are all rooted in trauma and they don't get talked about. It feels so good to share all of this. The deeper I go into facing the terror I've carried all my life, the easier it is to just be me. I'm very humbled by the process. No doubt the therapy, study, conversations here and with friends are all helping... but really this healing journey feels completely beyond my control. It certainly is beyond the control of the terrified boy inside me. It is also beyond the control of the grownup who thought he could master it all. I read a couple of days ago something I'd copied from the Tao te Ching that spoke to me again... this is all dependent of abiding with patience, simplicity and compassion. Of course, being able to do that is dependent on releasing the terror that holds me in its grip... but that seems to be happening. Grace.


I hear you describing a constant state of hyper-vigilance (Definition- Hyper-vigilance is the body's way of protecting you from threatening situations. It can occur in an environment where you perceive an extreme threat) similar to what I deal with.
My long term exposure to my unstable abuser and primary caregiver, my manic-depressive mother, when I was a child, left me with extreme difficulty recognizing when I was safe and when I wasn't. In truth, my happy looking mom might fly off the handle and I had no idea why but that didn't stop me (as a child then and as an adult now) from constant problem-solving and self blame even if there was no actual solution.
I developed a constant awareness about her (and now everybody's around me) emotions ever shifting and irrational moods and resolved that she needed my help more than I needed hers. I decided (as most children do) that I was responsible for here happiness and that when she was happy then I could ask for her love and support. Her eventual suicide (after I told her I could not be here surrogate spouse anymore left me feeling like I had killed her.
Now, I am constantly aware of everyone around me 'not doing it right' and I feel compelled to problem solve and 'help-out' even when it is not wanted or appreciated. If I don't do this I quickly become overwhelmed with anxiety which manifests as impatience and anger towards those who are 'not doing it right' (like not turning on a blinker signal or skipping steps at work). It is not intentional. I don't like it either.
Simply put, after a decade of seeking ways to survive the insanity of loving a crazy person who abused me I was never able to unlearn (or set aside) what allowed me to survive. I hate it, I feel like a failure every time I feel that anger and anxiety. Because it is a survival instinct I don't even get a chance to intervene with traditional thought blockers or counter-logic.
Instead, I try to recognize potential triggers ahead of time (work is a big one for me). I intentionally look for good things (like co-workers doing their work) and I use humor and praise to help support them and acknowledge them. Actively looking for the good things (even small ones) helps reduce the stress of seeing the other stuff. Also, I intentionally drive slower. Not because I want to piss people off but to remind myself that driving is not a competition where passing another car means you are doing better or that the other guy is in my way (which feeds my problem solving/ anger cycle).
EQCR... you're telling the story of my life exactly. My mother didn't commit suicide but then I never confronted here with what happened because it took me so long to recognize the role she played in the insanity of my life. Of course, because she terrified me I was susceptible to the three generation family of pedophiles who introduced me to their world when I was 3 years old. That meant I spent most of my life lost in some form of compulsive sexual behavior that remained my preoccupation for most of my life. It was only two years ago that I accepted the reality of what happened in my crib and in the first months of my life.

I know healing from such destabilization is very hard. I realized that I was NEVER secure in myself or safe in the world... that I had to make it up as I went along... but always with the feeling of shame that there was something wrong with me. I coined the phrase residue of trauma to define what we carry through life... it consists of shame, terror, rage and grief. Shame is evident, the terror may arise as fear, the rage as simple anger and the grief is hidden. I was an angry driver, impatient with everyone for everything because I needed to know the best way to do everything... I know you know what I'm talking about.

All I can say my friend is be gentle with yourself. Self-compassion is the antidote to shame and self-care a confirmation we are worthy, lovable, cherished... THAT is my mantra and I happily share it with you.
@EQCR +1 here on hyper-vigilance. (((hugs for you))), I'm sorry about your mom's choices that were entirely selfish.

I like your driving slow approach, i need to do that more. These days I floor it and redline my car engine (safely but aggressively) on almost every drive, not good.

It's a challenge to add a "I'm getting triggered" detector, but I'm trying and can now able to cut-off some of my triggered emotional responses within the first few seconds of feeling that helplessness that is my main lash-out trigger feeling. Some days I watch my body for changes because I'm not very attached to my feelings and emotions, but body sensations are consistently present.

@HenryD, you're not a fraud, just injured.