“I will help you,” he stated simply. He said it clearly and with a calm voice. There was no urgency, no judgement, nothing but truthful intention. It was all I needed to hear. He had said that phrase twice: once at the beginning of our session and once toward the end of the hour. I know I will get through this because he is going to help me. He has a track record of over eight years of consistency in seeing me, week after week no matter the circumstance, and he has always been there for me. I have no reason to doubt him now. I would not want to do this without him.
Less than 24 hours away is the hour I have been dreading all week, panicked, and with preemptive flashbacks of horrible moments in my past. The feelings have been, at times, overwhelming. That is why I chose to see my therapist today. I needed his steadfast guidance and I needed to hear the confident tone in his voice. He believes in me fully.
When I feel overwhelmed, it feels like there is an emergency happening, but it’s all inside of the confines of my mind. I don’t hear voices. I don’t get headaches. But it feels as if my head is pounding and my thoughts are screaming out at me. My body goes into panic mode. My mind reacts as if there is imminent danger present. I don’t notice my heart rate increasing or my breaths becoming quicker and shorter. No, I don’t think that I have any physiological reaction other than wanting to break down crying. No, sobbing, screaming at the skies.
Yesterday, after a night of panicked tears and a morning of flashbacks, I was sitting at my desk in front of the computer. My fingers were furiously typing out an email to my therapist on my phone, which I had positioned below my desk as to not make it obvious. When no one was looking, I allowed myself to sink my head into my hands, my fingers sprawled across the sides of my head as if trying to stop it from exploding. I wrote several emails that day. The word “trauma” and “scared” came up frequently in my writing.
My therapist allows me to email him at any time, and as many times as I want to. It’s important to me, and to my process of healing. I need him, and him alone, to know what is going on in my mind at all times. I usually write to him daily. I used to write novels each day, when I was entrenched in the after-effects of the recent traumas. There was an endless need for me to get out the words I couldn’t manage to say. I needed to tell my story over and over again, until, through the mess of the memories, some of it made sense to me, and the feelings began to fade.
Those feelings are not gone. They simply remain dormant in the background. It has been almost five years since I got out of that relationship. “I got out.” He had never hear me before say it in that way. I got out. I managed to get away. I escaped. None of that “he left me” and me wanting to get back together with my abuser. I hadn’t known much of any other life. Now I have the power to own my actions. I chose to leave, and what a fortunate and life-altering and gut-wrenching thing it was to do. I suffered for many years afterwards.
At first I was in complete denial and for over a year I had still wanted a marriage, but a different kind of marriage. That man, with that evil and ill mind of his, was not capable of providing any other sort of relationship. He needed to act out the trauma again and again that he experienced when he was two years old: the feelings of helplessness, the guilt, the shame of a child who didn’t have the words or mind to understand what had happened to him when his male babysitter made my ex-husband-abuser put his penis into his mouth. A grown man puts his penis into the mouth of a two-year-old boy. How fucked up is that? Yet it happens more than we know, today, in our society. A father is having sex with his young daughter and a neighbor is inserting objects into the little girl’s vagina whom he is babysitting. But instead of being told that it was “our little secret” I was told that it was my fault. I was to blame that he liked little girls. He dressed me up like a little girl, buying the clothes for me, and making me role-play. He got off on that and then blamed me for it.
He taught me how to have sex with a woman when I did everything I could to resist his control. But the manipulation and the guilt tactics and the pleading and the fact that I thought I loved him over a period of many months, with daily repetition of these behaviors, wore me down. I didn’t want to have sex with anyone but him. In fact, I wanted to make love with him. But he was incapable of making love. It was all about him, and the satisfaction of his needs, and the release he got. He had a sick mind. He still does, only he is no longer the perpetrator of abuse and trauma in my life. He will not change unless he seeks therapy and that is not very likely.
I need to shower tonight. Showering used to be such a struggle for me. I wouldn’t shower for days, and my hair got greasy and I would attempt to cover up my body odour with flowery deodorant. Only, there was nowhere to go anyway, and I would stay in bed for 22 hours at a time, getting up seldomly to go to the toilet. I probably spent over two years in this perpetual state of hibernation. Living was too painful for me and I needed to protect myself from the hurtful, dangerous world by staying in my bed with the shades of the window drawn closed.
When I shower I am going to imagine washing off the difficulties, no, the challenges, of the last days. Yesterday, while I was sobbing and wailing inside the confines of the safety of my car in the parking lot of my office building during the middle of the afternoon when I was supposed to be working – I felt dirty. It wasn’t just a thought. It was a feeling. Through the tears I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that my whole being was dirty. Dirty because of what happened to me for over a period of six years. Dirty because my body was sold to over two hundred men. Dirty because of the scant clothing I used to have to wear. Dirty because I was ashamed and horrified with myself at the same time.
I used to scratch and ferociously rub the dirt off of my skin. My dear aunt would tell me that it’s not dirt, but dead skin that is coming off of my body. Why then, is it a darker colour? Little miniscule bits of dead skin coming off of my arms, my chest, my neck, from under my breasts. It was everywhere. I used to spend hours just rubbing my skin. It was calming. It was satisfying when I got a miniscule particle of something under my fingernails. I would flick it to the hard ground and continue rubbing my skin red in order to find more dirt to get off of myself. Even if I showered, it was still there. Nothing could make it go away. The flecks of skin particles would collect on the hardwood floor beside me where I was sitting on the couch and I would have to get a paper towel to clean up the floor. I stopped doing that, for the most part. But sometimes I find myself rubbing the skin around my clavicle. There must be thoughts and feelings which trigger me to do it, but I haven’t figured that out yet. It still feels satisfying, triumphant, to rub my skin. Because it’s my body, and I have control over it, and I control what food goes into my mouth, and who touches me, who has sex with me. I have had sex once in the past five years and I do not regret it. But at the same time, I wasn’t ready for it either and I never saw that person again after that.
Over the next ten weeks during the course of this group therapy I am choosing to attend, a lot of feelings will be brought up. A lot of thoughts and a lot of emotions. But I must always remind myself that “feelings come and go, but I remain.” There is no emergency happening inside of my mind right now.