The Aftermath

To my Therapist,

My dog has his face buried into the couch. He looks just like I did today when I was waiting for Dr. D. (my psychiatrist). Only, he’s more relaxed and he’s not about to cry.

I feel devastatingly sad today and my heart aches. If there were actual, physical pain, then I could grasp it. I could hold onto it. I could say, see? But you can’t see. No one can actually see my pain. It’s invisible to the naked eye. My past symptoms of PTSD, they were all in my head. It may have been real, but now it’s surreal and I can’t stand this feeling of emptiness filled with pain and sorrow and the longing for a better life, the longing for a life without those painful memories.

I didn’t choose to be abused. I didn’t choose this life. I didn’t choose to be brought into this world full of pain, awful, heart-wrenching pain.

I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I don’t want to live this life. I don’t want to feel pain. I don’t want to feel memories of the memories of the pain. Why is this happening to me? Why did I make that stupid decision yesterday to plug in the hard drive? I thought I could just copy my current stuff onto the drive without opening a folder. But it didn’t work that way. That’s not what happened.

I can’t not be triggered by what I did. I’m not there yet. I’ve worked really hard in therapy over the last years. You yourself said that I kept coming back. That means I didn’t give up. I never actually gave up no matter how hopeless life seemed at the time. I kept coming to see you and I let you hold the hope for me until it could slowly be transferred over to me.

I know you’re not worried about me. I know you think I’m going to be fine. And the truth is, I probably will be fine. Later tonight, I will go to sleep with my dog by my side and a new day will be gone. The horror of today will be in the immediate past, but still, in the past.

My dog has seen me cry a few times in the past couple days. I think it is confusing to him. I would be confused if my mom were crying desperately whilst at the same time petting me with a calm and steady hand.

My roommate put out her diffuser by my side of the couch and it has lavender oil in it. There is a mile high and wide pile of dishes which are mine and dirty. I have neglected them completely. I took myself out to lunch today and had a nutritious and very filling salmon burrito. But then all I could manage for dinner was a plain white bagel with cream cheese. I’m not even hungry now.

Yesterday I was going to starve myself. So I didn’t eat lunch but then finally decided to stop punishing myself for awful things that weren’t my fault, and I ate something. I’m sure I told you about it in an email last night, but I tend to repeat things and not remember that I already told the story to you. And you listen to me with patience, curiosity, and insight each time. When you ask me if you’ve told me the story about the little girl in Kindergarten who was able to understand math with visual objects, or stories from the farm, or when you found the kittens freezing at Christmas by a manhole in front of your home, how you put them on your stomach to warm them up and how some didn’t make it, and I say, no, I’ve never heard that story before (because I genuinely don’t remember) then you tell it to me again as if it’s the first time you’re telling me about it. I also love when you tell me about making the special bread rolls at Thanksgiving and watching them rise in the oven and that they don’t always turn out perfectly because it has to be timed just right.

Look. See what I did for myself. I just used all of the coping skills you’ve ever taught me. Well, not all, but I used the skills I have learned. You see, all this time, you have been telling me that I have a choice. That I don’t have to act on my feelings. That feelings are there to inform us, to give us information. That anger isn’t a bad emotion, it’s just an emotion. Dr. D. told me that I have a choice in how I feel, even though it feels like I can’t control my feelings and that I am having an emergency. But that things don’t have to be urgent and I guess I don’t have to have mental health crises and emergencies.

I really want to learn how to control my emergencies. I don’t want to live through another day like yesterday and today. While leaving Dr. D.’s office yesterday I thought about stepping into oncoming traffic, but I knew it wouldn’t kill me because we were downtown and they weren’t going fast enough. So I didn’t do it. I guess it was really an emotion that told me to step out into traffic and I didn’t listen to that inner voice. But you know, it’s really hard to separate yourself from an emotion that you are experiencing. Is that what all psychotherapists are able to do? Because it’s God-awfully hard to do. I told Dr. D. there’s no way I could or would want to do what he does every day and deal with people like me. He said, well then I guess it’s good that you’re not in the program. Maybe in five years I will be ready for this and I can try it again when I have worked hard to build up my emotional resiliency.

I really need to shower tonight because I tell myself that, even though I don’t like showering, I need to do it every other day so that I don’t show up at work with greasy hair.

You know what I hate? When I’ve taken off a mental health day from work and then the next day my boss says, “you look fine.” Well, screw that. I can lie and tell her how nauseated I felt at the time, but my personal life isn’t hers to know. Who is she to ask questions about things that are private? I don’t have to tell anyone any longer about my traumatic past because I am leaving it behind.

Which brings me to my main question I have to figure out tomorrow with you. Do I erase the hard drive and all of the bad along with good things or will I one day regret it? Dr. D. said there is no urgency and I don’t have to do it now. I can wait. I thought it was going to happen today, but maybe it’s better to not act impulsively, even though the friends whom I’ve asked have all agreed I should delete it all and that I can make new memories.

I have to go now and take care of myself.

 

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Thank God I am Alive and Fuck the Stigma

I literally just said those words out loud with a big sigh: “Thank God I am alive.” These last two days have been challenging. I describe those moments like “an emergency in my head.” It’s as if the alarm bells are ringing and my mind is all over the place. Everything seems urgent. Every emotion is tearing me in different directions. I am in desperation. It’s a panic attack without the physical symptoms of sweating, shaking, or hyperventilating. In fact, if you were to have walked by my desk you wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual, except for the fact that I was on my phone, frantically texting people for help and support.

This morning I had an emergency in my head. I had to leave work early. (Let me rephrase, since everything is a choice, I decided to leave early.) It lasted between 60 – 90 minutes and it was intense. I was messaging my #SickNotWeak community on Twitter for support as well. It wasn’t so bad that I would have had to call the crisis line but I was considering driving myself to the local psychiatric hospital for an evaluation.

It’s all because of what happened yesterday. Yesterday was President’s day, which is a banking holiday, so my office was closed in observance. The night before I had been cleaning up piles of paper in my room to make it look more livable and neat, when I came across my old external hard drive. I had been meaning to backup my computer months ago and had pulled out the hard drive from its box. It never made its way to the living room. Not that I don’t have a portable laptop, but the bedroom is for sleeping only, not hanging out.

I had fretted about this the night before, on Sunday night. You see, this hard drive is a backup of my old computer before it died a year ago. There were a lot of files on it. In fact, around 800 GB of things. In those files, there are some good things and some bad things. I found a song in an mp3 file which I hadn’t listened to in years, so I played it and enjoyed it. I also found some photos that had my Mum and brother in them. But there were some #notokay sexually explicit photographs in there as well. From my past. From the days of my coerced/forced prostitution by my ex-abuser/husband. Why had I not deleted these images years ago so I wouldn’t have to come across them?

You know what else was triggering? The fact that I weighed 100 lbs in 2009. That is sickly thin and he used to put me on diets to make me skinny like a little girl because he was into that stuff. Pretending he was having sex with little girls.

But the worst was yet to come. I came across some PDF files. In those PDF files were copies of some of the Craigslist ads he had posted, which I had gladly forgotten about. He used to pay between $300 – $3,000 cash to girls to do kinky sexual favours for him. He went through money like it was water. He went through my money as well. Not to mention we had had an $80,000 wedding. But that was a long time ago.

The kinds of phrases that got seared into my head were sexually-implicating terminologies that I would never use, such as “creampie” or “water sports.” It’s really disgusting, you can just use your imagination. He had all these terminologies, I know there were more but I don’t want to even try to remember them. It’s all fucked up.

So seeing those ads really fucked me up yesterday and I was still recovering from it today. I left work early today going home with “nausea” because one of my bosses, the CFO, doesn’t believe in mental healthcare. She shared with me once that her mom had mental health issues and in therapy her mom just kept getting worse, and that’s why she doesn’t believe in that “crap” (my inserted word, not hers.)

You know what I really hate? When you take a mental health day off of work and the next day your boss says, “oh, you look fine today.” As if I should have been fine yesterday, or that it was a surprisingly quick recovery from the supposed physical health issue. Well, Fuck That! Fuck it. Fuck that there is stigma around mental illness. Fuck society who thinks healthcare for the mind should be valued less than healthcare for the body. Fuck President Trump, and Fuck everyone who has ever judged me for having an invisible illness. Well, it sure isn’t invisible when I go “splat” on the pavement from jumping up high or passed out and getting my stomach pumped because of a prescription medication overdose. Do you think that is invisible? Can you still ignore the thousands of people in the United States who kill themselves every year?

Rant aside, now I can focus and calm down. I just had to get that out. No, I chose to get it out. Everything is a choice, right? We can choose how we feel. Well, that’s what my psychiatrist was reminding me of today, is that they are feelings. And I know from my therapist that feelings inform but you don’t have to act on them. So if my mind-emergency happens again, which inevitably it will at some point, I need to remember to remind myself that they are feelings, not facts. It doesn’t have to be an emergency and my desired self-destructive urges don’t have to be acted out on.

I stopped and my mind went elsewhere for a minute. I had the thought that I want to call the crisis line even though I know I am no longer in crisis. I want to tell them what happened today and that I wanted to step out into oncoming traffic yesterday. Then I want to tell them what that ex-abuser fucker did to me to mess me up. Only, I’m not messed up. It just feels that way, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

I have to say, I don’t practice the art of using curse words often. In fact, rarely. Seldomly will you hear me say something other than “Scheiza” which is “shit” in German. It somehow has less of an impact or seems softer if you say it in a foreign language that the other person doesn’t understand, but they can imagine what it might mean.

My roommate is really sweet. She put out her oil diffuser and humidifier right on the side table of where I sit on my couch. It was there when I got home. I plugged it in and now there is smoke coming out of it. Vapour smoke. And the thing changes colours which is fun. I microwaved the leopard print shoulder beanie thing to put around my neck. Now it’s back to room temp and needs to be microwaved again. I had cream cheese and a plain bagel for dinner, along with guava kombucha. I love that stuff. Earlier I took myself out to a hearty lunch at Rubio’s. I got what I always get: a grilled salmon burrito. It comes warm with guacamole inside it and some kind of sauce, and grilled corn and some plain and dry coleslaw stuff. God, it’s good. But I could have eaten half the thing and been perfectly fine. Only, I forced myself to eat it all because I don’t like to waste and I didn’t think it would taste good when it’s not fresh.

Self care. I am practicing self care now because the emergencies are over now. Yesterday I went to bed at 7:00 pm because I couldn’t bear to be alive, to be in my mind, and I forced myself to stay asleep for the next 12 hours. Why does my life have to be so difficult sometimes?

I told my psychiatrist that it’s not fair. It’s not fair that I have to live and other people get to die. He said what my therapist has said as well, which is that we all die eventually. So why not make the best of it now? That last part my therapist didn’t say, but he does things differently than my psychiatrist. I love them both and I never want them to ever leave me. I always get nervous at the end of a therapy session, especially when there is only 5 – 10 minutes left. It’s the anticipation of things ending. I hate when things end. I hate endings. I’m always watching the clock when in therapy so that I can call the time. I hate being told it’s over. I hate it.

I have a plan tonight. My dog is napping in my lap and I told my psychiatrist that he needs his mommy. My doctor agreed. Samuel came to my therapy session with me and I had him in my lap. He is my therapy dog, and a good one too. My plan is to finish watching the movie I started last night on my computer. It was pretty good. It was about a writer writing about a writer who stole another writer’s writing as his own and got famous off it. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

My roommate is so tolerant. The sink is piled high with my dishes, especially when I am mentally not doing well, and she never complains. I regularly apologize and the last time I said sorry, she said, “well, eventually you’ll run out of bowls, and then you’ll have to do the dishes.” That was a great response.

My two awful days of emergencies are over. By the way, I was going to delete that entire hard drive and wipe it clean. But my doctor said there is no urgency. That I can do it if I want to, but I don’t have to do it right now. So I think I am going to wait. Because in addition to really awful, horrible, triggering stuff, there are some good things on it too. Literally thousands of files to go through one day, if I ever decide to. But anything I would not want my future child to see has to go.

We are going to have a bonfire. My friend has a fire pit in her backyard and I am going to invite a few close friends and burn my old journals. I am finally ready to do this. I never want to read them again. Never. Ever. Ever. I think it will be cathartic and I know I won’t regret it. The hard drive, well, I can never go back once I hit the delete button. But my journals, this is more of a physical manifestation of getting rid of my trauma. I asked my friend if I needed to bring a kindle wood and she said we can use the journal pages as kindling. Wow! What a revelation!! I didn’t even think of ripping up the books. I was just thinking of burning them, but now I can rip them up AND burn them. It’s amazing. It’s fabulous. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m kind of glad I’m waiting on the idea of erasing 800 GB of my past. It’s good to wait. It’s good to not act impulsively. My back is hurting and I have to change positions now. It’s because my laptop isn’t in my lap, but off to the side on the couch arm, because my dog gets my lap. Which doesn’t always make it the best for long-term projects on the computer. I have one last thing to say:

KOMBUCHAAA!

From Time to Time I am Not Okay

I have been sobbing uncontrollably for the last while and the only thing I can think of that will make me feel better is to write. I have to write to get my emotions out. This is a desperate call of self-help. You see, it feels as if I am having a mental health emergency. Everything is on fire and the sirens are ringing and I am trying to drown out the sorrow with music that I like, but the sorrow and the pain is still there.

Hours have passed and the sun has gone down since I wrote that first and last paragraph above. I am still sick and my body is somehow holding me up. I have been in bed for the last three days with the flu, unable to work.

New Year’s Eve was wonderful. It really was. In spite of what happened. I went on a date. I really like this man. Only he took me to a club downtown. It was my doing. I had the option of changing plans entirely. The book was wide open and I closed it shut the moment I stepped into the Uber. Why do books always seem closed when in reality they are always wide open? I could have stopped at any point. I could have said, “No, stop, that’s it, I quit.” But I didn’t.

We were a group of five and a table and bottle service had been ordered in the “hip” club I had never been to. Meeting at my date’s friend’s home was okay. The host offered me anything but water and I took the water option anyway. I don’t own a TV. My back was deliberately placed facing the television so I would not have to see it. Who knows what God-awful images might appear and trigger me.

Conversation ensues as does the drinking. One round of shots. Two. Three. My date had warned me in advance that they drink. He wasn’t kidding. This was before the bottle service table, which would inevitably include drinking alcoholic beverages. “Keep them away from me!!” my mind is screaming. Just the slightest bit of alcohol could trigger me at any moment. When it hits me, and I can feel the effects of the alcohol doing its’ thing to my organs and obscuring my mind, add to that an environment where I don’t feel safe… and there you have it. Only, I didn’t drink alcohol. Not one bit.

Because he used to get me drunk, and then do things to me. That’s why it’s triggering. Who wouldn’t be triggered? After what I’ve been through? Only, they don’t know. They, the other people. They don’t know about what has happened to me. I am healed enough to know it’s not okay to tell strangers about my past traumas. It’s just not necessary and once it has been said it cannot be taken back. I used to spit details of my traumas out like a firehose. Not any more.

It was the loud music. It was the dark, flashing lighting. But most of all it was the outfits, the things that women choose to wear which do not cover their bodies. I didn’t look at anyone and kept my eyes averted, focused on where I was going. But from the corners of my eyes, it was inevitable. I couldn’t not see what these women were wearing. It’s the kind of clothing women wear who don’t respect their bodies. Who shamefully display all of their private parts out in the open. Those are the kinds of clothing I used to have to wear.

A bonfire would have been better, but I threw all of the awful things away in a dumpster. I hope the reds and the slinky blacks are rotting with rats in the filthiest of sewers, because that is where those things belong. It was everything combined that triggered me, but mostly the outfits those women wore.

Immediately after I sat down I started to cry. I had been crying in the dark car on the way over whilst keeping my head turned so that he wouldn’t notice. I told him in the car that I was scared of going downtown. “Really?” he asked in surprise. He didn’t know. I didn’t realize what was about to happen, but it was happening already and I tried to pull myself together.

He offered his hand to me. There were hoards of strangers on the streets pushing by, going here and there and everywhere. I said, “no” but immediately took his hand. He led me through the crowds and I felt safe. Well, safer. Safe. As safe as can be. I don’t know what safe is any more. I create my own safety. My safe is different from other people’s safe.

I turned to him with my screwed up crying face and said, “I can’t stay here.” He took one look at my face and said, “then let’s go.” He told his friend that we might not be back and he led a crying martyr out of the craziness and back into the world of reality. We kept walking hand in hand and I felt better every block we advanced. For what I didn’t know was that he was leading me away from the crowds. By then I had expressed my needs and he knew for a fact that I don’t like crowds.

“I have no backup plans for the evening,” he said. I suggested we go to a little coffee shop and that we snuggle in the corner. “Will they be open at this hour?” he asked. I started to stay something and from the corner of my eye I spied an awning which said “Cafe and Wine Bar,” kitty corner across the street. Perfect, just perfect, I thought to myself. And it was.

“It’s not a secret, you can ask me questions,” I offered. “You don’t know what’s going on in my mind unless you ask. You’re not a mind-reader.” That was after I had told him I would tell him the reason for my reaction in about 10 years, maybe five, and no less. We were seated in the corner of the outside patio. Everyone else was inside but I didn’t feel too chilly and I needed the quiet. I had my back to the bush and the wall because I needed to know what was behind me for safety. He isn’t used to not facing out to the entryway but willingly conceded to the positioning.

When he asked me what had happened to me, all I could come up with before was that “I have had bad experiences in those kind of places and I got triggered.” I repeated it again while we were seated on the tall stools. I couldn’t conjure any other words and so he offered some: “Were you attacked? Did someone slip a pill into your drink?” That was helpful to me. I bit on to that trail. “Let’s just say, it’s something like that,” I said between tears. “Did it happen just once or more than once?” “More than once,” I replied again.

He had moved his stool closer to mine and put his big, comforting arms around me. They fit all the way round. I buried my face into his neat blue shirt at his shoulder and sobbed. When I was done sobbing I looked up into his eyes and he had to say this. Why did he have to say this? He said, “I’m not going to hurt you.” Big, loud sobs all over again. I had never before heard these words uttered from a man in a romantic setting. No one. No one has said this to me. Maybe they have and I have forgotten, but keep in mind I haven’t really dated much in the last five and a half years since I left the terror I used to call home. Terror used to be my normal.

Six years ago my only safe place was my therapist’s office. It was not safe to go home because then he would get home from work and find me sleeping and berate me for wasting the day, wasting my time, and wasting his life. I dreaded the moments of his homecoming. I was desperately depressed and unable to function, let alone have all of my wits about me. My therapist had a small side room which was a play therapy room at the time. After our therapy session I would sheepishly ask if I could stay, which meant curling up on the floor of that safe, dark room, and sleeping for a few hours. He never once said “no” to me and must have planned his time around seeing me. He almost always let me stay to sleep, because that was the only safe place for me to get rest.

That room is now gone and so is my need for it. I no longer need that room and I no longer need the soft,  forest green blanket, although sometimes I feel like I need it. But it isn’t there any longer. Those things are gone and I am safe. But at times I get triggered. There was no way for me to know that that was going to happen. It was severe, upsetting, dramatic, traumatic, and all in all not good. But the man who was with me made it okay.

I have been sick in bed for the last few days. The flu has reached epic proportions in plaguing our population at this time. Or so I have heard. More documented cases than ever before. Are there three strains of the flu virus going around this winter? Either way, all it took was me kissing someone on the cheek who wasn’t sick, but whose child was sick. And Voilà. There you have it. There I have it. There it is.

So it’s Friday, after a long week of still being ill, and I decided to take it upon myself to call my insurance company. Bad idea!!! On the second of what was going to be several frustrating calls, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I was being told that all of my claims for the last several months have been denied because they needed a verification of student enrollment. WTF?! I thought I took care of this last month. They other people said I didn’t need it. That my student status was verified. And now I’m being told this is not the case. I don’t know who to call or where to go with any of this and I just hang up the phone while the representative is in mid-sentence and start sobbing.

The last time I cried was on New Year’s Eve and it was for having been triggered of things in the past. I cried for a solid hour today. It literally felt as if I was in crisis. Alarm bells were ringing and the sirens wailing and my body sweating and noises coming out of my gut I didn’t remember I could make. I sent text messages to a few people letting them know I was in crisis. One of those people was my therapist and without fail, as usual, he was able to come through for me. I am seeing him in about an hour from now.

Feelings come and go but I remain. I remain. I remain. I have to remember that. I need to remember this. Tattoo it on my arm, in my veins, do something! Help me! God, help me. I’m supposed to know this, that a crisis will pass. But when I am in the moment, it’s just too real and I had images of being caught up in a hospital with white bedsheets and white walls and white outfits on doctors. Am I going crazy?

But I didn’t go to the hospital today. I haven’t been in quite some time, in fact. I have managed to stay out. My roommate reminded me it would pass, and that I would feel better later. Dreams of lavender bubble baths entered my mind and it was the music which distracted me and made me feel better.

Also, I didn’t strangle my dog. While I was in crisis he was irritating the hell out of me and I thought about kicking him, throwing him on the floor. He just kept coming back to me, and licking his paws, which he knows he is not supposed to do! Thank heaven for the option I didn’t realize I had, which was to put him in the other room and close the door. He must have been so confused at the wailing sounds which were coming out of me.

When it was all over I brought him to me and layed on the couch. I stroked him tenderly and apologized to him. Really, I should apologize to myself. But not apologize, just empathise. I need to have more empathy for me and hold space in my heart for moments in which I am inevitably from time to time not going to be okay.

My Final Goodbye

After seeing my psychiatrist today during a session in which I felt extremely nauseated due to the conflicting feelings of sadness, anger, shame and guilt, I decided to take a different route home. Usually I go on the freeway but I decided to drive by the local park instead. When I say park, I mean, it’s a really really big park spanning perhaps ten blocks. In doing so, I came across the street where I used to live. I decided to do a drive-by. Serendipitously there was a parking spot open right in front of the building. It was dusk and the sun was setting on the building in a beautiful deep yellow reflection. This isn’t the most beautiful street. In fact, it’s close to downtown and it’s also not the safest neighborhood. The apartment is on the ground floor and has bars across windows with a metal gate locked in front of the front door.

This was the first apartment I lived in after I left my abusive relationship. I have a lot of bad memories here, including the cops picking me up violently and aggressively after I had called the suicide hotline telling them I was cutting on myself. Apparently a knife, even a small cheese knife, is considered to be a weapon. The PERT team never comes because that division is always understaffed.

Why was I sitting in my car staring at this place? I was feeling even more sad and dejected by this time, and I called three close girlfriends in succession. The third picked up and I was ever so grateful. We immediately made plans to meet up and I was able to leave the sorrow behind for the most part. As I was leaving the answer dawned upon me: the reason I came here was to say goodbye. I was saying goodbye to my former life. I am saying goodbye to the abuse and the sexual trauma.

Why? Because I met a man. I am infatuated with this man. He is kind and gentle. The kind of healing I am doing now was not going to be possible until I met another man. We have been intimately involved sexually for the past two weeks. After over five and a half years of abstinence, and an overarching fear of anything to do with sex, I am discovering how much I enjoy having sex. It’s an amazing feeling. I can have sex in a carefree and loving manner with a man whom I have chosen. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know what he wants in terms of any commitment or relationship. It’s all so new. I have spoken with a lot of people about this new development in my life and I have decided to just have fun and take it week by week. I am not the one calling him often. I am going to leave the pursuit up to him and mirror his advances. I was advised not to give more than he gives. This is a dating game, but I can play this.

He is my lover. I have a lover and we make love. We also have plain and simple sex, and sometimes it is aggressive or vigorous sex. I have been able to communicate to him two things that he did which I did not like, which included having a hand put tightly to my neck. I have been strangled before and I don’t want it to be perpetuated by any man. I don’t find it exciting. I am learning about my sexuality and I am on a sexual journey. I realize that everyone’s sexual journey is different, and I am just so glad to be able to start my journey of self-discovery in this realm.

Reaction to “I am Jane Doe” Film

Disclaimer: This is an extremely personal and private journal entry.

I have no words yet I must express myself after having experienced the film, “I am Jane Doe” tonight. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Terror. Disgust. Silence. These are the first words which come to my mind. These women had evidence in regards to what happened to them, and they lost their court cases but they didn’t give up.

I have no evidence. Nothing will ever make right what happened to me during my early adulthood. There could be so many “If only’s.” But I cannot dwell in that realm. What I can do is fight the depression. What I can do is to keep living and to survive every moment of suicidal ideation which comes my way. What I can do is to continue to see my psychotherapist who has, over the course of nine dedicated years, changed my life for the better, who has stuck by me through every setback and every frustration, and who helped me get through the pain and the tears just last week because of the memories of the life that I used to live.

The sexual abuse started in 2005 but he had been grooming me for it since the year 2000. I met him in 1996 for the first time in a physical exercise class where I was at least two years younger than everybody else in that class, save my twin brother. All of the girls had started to grow breasts and I didn’t even have a training bra because I didn’t need it yet. My chest was flat. Little did I know that I had met my future abuser who would later sell my body for profit on Backpage.com and on Craigslist.com, who would put me on starvation diets so that I would weigh not much more than a young teenager, who made me regularly get my vulva waxed so that he could enjoy “playing” with my hairless vagina, as if I were a child, who bought for me and made me wear children’s underwear and children’s two-piece bathing suits while having sex with me, who hated my big breasts, and who coerced and manipulated me into having humiliating “pee accidents” on the floor so that he could be sexually aroused. To be honest, the list and the run-on sentence could span many pages but the idea of the clear perversion is already there.

My fingers clutching my favourite pen, uncapped, hovering in the air like a pendulum stopped halfway whilst that same right hand takes a pause from the tension in my tendons and forearm muscles, propping up my bowing head. My eyes close and I take a breath. I open my eyes again to the reality of the safety I have created for myself which had been years in the making. This is my home and I am in charge of my life. I make my own decisions, I buy my own food and clothes, and I even have a say in what happens to the money which I earn. I wear my hair as I like, long and free-flowing with no product to alter its natural beauty and I no longer have to wear contact lenses for the sole purpose of making my eyes look blue or green, a stark contrast to my natural olive skin and the hazel eyes I was born with. I haven’t touched a straightening iron or curling iron for over five years, save the Winter Formal my company hosted in a ballroom last year, for which I foolishly and lavishly wore a $700 dress “just because I could” purchased by the unexpected alimony I had recently received by the sale of his company, whose beginnings I suffered through, and of which monies my ex-abuser thought I did not deserve a penny.

Here I pause because I am allowed to take respite from the breathlessly long sentences running through my hidden veins which want to be heard and acknowledged. I am okay. I am okay and I am always going to be okay no matter what may come, because I have learned how to take care of myself.

This piece which I am actively composing is not only dear to my heart, starkly honest, and telling of my vulnerabilities but also my strengths, it is so intensely personal, pivotal in this moment and important to me that I was compelled to pull out my personal journal and become a part of the process, fully engaged, where ink becomes shapes, which become words and finally, sentences. I am not typing these words on a computer keyboard or via my phone; I am creating strength and beauty which is taking shape in my own handwriting. How special is that.

I do not have the time or energy to continue this on for much longer because I now live a life that is full of things which living people do, as opposed to being oppressed by the grip of the death wish of suicidality because of the trauma which I experienced at the hands of an immoral man who is likely doing the same thing he did to me to someone else.

At this, I must conclude, because I simply can’t go on any longer right now. I must go heal myself so that I can face another day of the mostly and amazingly happy life which I now lead.

Mental Health Recovery Day

I am kind to myself. I can be nice to myself. I give myself permission to practice self-kindness. I can be gentle with me. I can do this. I am doing this. I will keep doing this. I am strong, kind, generous, faithful, intelligent and beautiful.

I took the day off of work today. It was a mental health recovery day. These last five days have been hard and I just couldn’t see myself going to work today. I kept snoozing the alarm and I knew I just didn’t want to deal with life today. Instead, I slept for about 16 hours. I finally got up in the early afternoon, a couple hours before seeing my psychotherapist. I was originally going to see him after work, but because I took the day off and he had availability, I was able to see him sooner. I saw him yesterday and I am seeing him tomorrow. It’s Spring Break and he’s not teaching this week, therefore, I am taking what I can get. I’ve always dreamed of seeing him every day for several days in a row. I tell him by email all the time that I hate not seeing him and I hate having to wait five days to see him. Well, I can rest easy because I get to see him in less than 24 hours from now.

When I can’t cope, I can’t cope. It’s just a fact. I wasn’t okay. When I get overwhelmed my mind goes straight to suicide and self-harm. It makes sense. I wasn’t able to retaliate when I was being abused because talking back or acting out would only make things worse. So when I couldn’t control things in my external world, I turned to my inner world for a sense of control. In focusing in on myself, in exacting self-harm whether through restricting food, cutting on myself, drinking alcohol, having more sex with strangers, telling myself I wasn’t worthy of love, and in so many other ways, I was able to control aspects of my life. Unfortunately, the control seeped out into other parts of my life and I felt that this was beyond my control. I acted out at work and ruined my professional life by quitting my career job out of desperation. But after leaving the abusive situation I was in, I began to heal myself once the major PTSD symptoms had subsided, which took a couple years.

When I was growing up too, my external world was beyond my control and things were unstable, so I controlled my inner world by fantasizing about running away from home or sleeping out on the porch in the snow to hurt my mum by hurting myself. When I was eight, I remember yelling at her, “I wish I were dead!” at the top of my lungs, because I wanted to hurt her back so badly, and I knew because my father had died, that it would get to her. “No, no,” she had replied with tears in her eyes, and I knew I had gotten to her. It’s as if I had to go to extreme measures in order to receive unconditional love and attention.

Self-harm has always been a part of my life, but with the help of my psychotherapist over the last eight and a half years I am learning to find other ways to express my anger and to not direct it toward myself. Because I don’t deserve that. No one deserves to hate themselves and to hurt themselves. Everyone deserves kindness and compassion. Most of all, from me to myself. I am okay. I will be okay. I am going to be okay. I can do this. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. Just keep telling myself that and eventually it will be true. But the fact of the matter is, I am actually okay, it’s just that I don’t always feel okay. But I have learned that feelings come and go, and I remain. The emergency in my mind is no longer happening, and the noise and the chaos in my mind has subsided, and what is left is just me, without the state of emergency. It meant the world to me today when, at the end of our therapy session, my therapist said to me, “I’m glad you are feeling better.” “Me too,” I replied. Me too.

Anorexic Ideation

I started starving myself yesterday. It’s not a complete starvation diet. Since I managed to eat just 750 calories yesterday I’m going to restrict myself to 800 calories per day. I think that’s reasonable. I just got home from work and I’ve had a total of 515 calories so far. I’ve been constantly hungry for the past two days but I am able to sleep through the night and I think I have been drinking more liquids. That’s good, so I don’t get a headache from being hungry. I like the control this gives me. I have told several of my close friends. Some have responded with love and compassion and others have responded with insulting comments. That makes me feel bad and it is unfortunate. And I’m not going to eat because someone tells me to eat. I like the control I get over my body.

I don’t see this as a mental disorder because I don’t have a distorted perception of my body. I know I’m a bit fat. I’m about five foot, two inches and I was 139 for the longest time but in the last two weeks I’ve gotten down to 131 pounds and it is very encouraging. I would like to reach 125, then 120, and then we’ll see from there. A person I thought was a mentor and who used to be like my father responded “you can’t come visit if you have a feeding tube”. Can you believe someone would say that? Whatever happened to unconditional love? The best thing about this diet is that I can have as much tea as I want, which is soothing and comforting, and it’s not that I couldn’t have tea before, it’s just that I need the comfort of the hot tea more now than ever.

I told my roommate about my plan and she told me that is not healthy. That was earlier this afternoon by text message. Now she is sitting in the living room with me here, playing with her cat, and she hasn’t said a word to me. Just “hi” and that’s it. She probably just doesn’t know what to say. I have no idea what my therapist is going to tell me tomorrow night. Supposedly this is connected to the ending of my group therapy, because I decided to stop going. I started looking up things on anorexia last week and then by Saturday night I was so incredibly angry with myself that I was considering jumping off a bridge, but then I decided to go to bed. Yesterday I had no desire to live and I didn’t feel like getting up, and so 14 hours later when my mom called in the afternoon, I finally got up. I must admit I did feel better about life in general after getting up and being “alive”.

Did you know that a medium-sized apple contains 95 calories? Neither did I. But the internet has all sorts of information readily available. I used to think that anorexic people looked… well, far too skinny. But I was looking at images today while at work and I was thinking to myself that it looks beautiful. My friend whom I am seeing tonight said that women are meant to have curves and that my ex-abuser wanted to me to look like a little girl and that is why he put me on diets. He hated my big breasts and totally disregarded them as if they didn’t exist. All he cared about was my vagina and getting into it with his hands and other body parts as much as possible. And getting other men to use me too.

I have to go over to my friend’s house before it gets too late. She called me last night as soon as I told her what I am doing to myself and we planned to get together tonight. She wants to show me and remind me that I am loved and that her child loves me very much. He is five now and I have known him since he was born. She said that a child’s love, and a baby’s love, is pure. I couldn’t agree more.

I am a Survivor

Look what I did today! I sat with my feelings. I allowed myself to experience my anger and my sadness. The feelings were present but I wasn’t feeling them because I wasn’t allowing them to come to the surface. I could only do it in a safe place, in my therapist’s presence. I thought I was just sad but only after he pointed out that he had detected some anger did I realize I was feeling this too.

It wasn’t fair what happened to me. It wasn’t right. What happened was horrible but that doesn’t make me horrible. I am a grown woman and I have hair on my vulva because I am a woman, not a girl. My abuser wanted me to be like a little girl and didn’t allow me to have hair down there. It was one of two options: shave or wax. The waxing was painful and the shaving irritated my skin. And my vagina was constantly hurting, burning on the inside. I had many yeast infections and I had a solution to numb the burning pain which I applied every few hours for days on end. I kept a constant supply of that prescription stuff.

Group therapy is bound to bring up these thoughts and feelings. It is inevitable. Every single woman in that group roundtable has a story, and every single woman experienced horrific sexual abuse. None of them know yet the extent of my story. They don’t know that I was sold to other men, that my vagina was used a lot, that I was treated as an object and a commodity. They don’t know the extent of my mental illness, that I underwent 30 ECT’s because of my major depression and extreme suicidal ideations. They don’t know that because of the cost of the medical bills, the inpatient and outpatient hospitalizations, the ambulance rides and emergency room visits, I chose to file for bankruptcy because the thought of the bills and the calls from collection agencies made me want to kill myself.

Those things are behind me now. I am the owner of my life. I make decisions for me. I choose what to do, and whom to tell my story to. I am the owner of me. I survived. I overcame adversity. I have a new life now, and it is all because of me and what I did and the choices I made which helped me to heal. And God, was it hard.  

The World We Live In

To my therapist,
I am supposed to be kind to myself. I don’t feel kind. I am supposed to love myself. I don’t feel love. I am human. I feel immense sadness. Some realizion of reality and terror just struck me and I am in tears. They feel like tears that come with the relief of knowing that the pain is over and I don’t have to feel it any longer except when the wounds will be torn open during group therapy for the next nine weeks.
I began feeling this apathy and dread at a social event earlier today. I spoke to the one person I knew there in order to distract myself. After many silent moments on the phone with a friend just now I hung up and started crying. I have now stopped and my tears are dry. I have no particular interest in reading my text book tonight. I have no particular interest on attending group therapy on Wednesday, the day before I am to see you next. I feel a moment of hatred for myself at the idea of attending this group. It was my idea. I’m supposed to attend because it’s supposed to help. But all of the women have experienced horror and terror and each of their stories weaves an awful story of a reality I do not want to bear nor live in. A reality where men take two year old girls to bed with them, a world in which men take women at knife point into the bushes to rape them with no regard to whether they are daughters and mothers, a world in which men sell their wives bodies to the highest bidder, in which men own human bodies, women’s bodies, and can do with them what they please and without consent. This is a world of evil, without humanity, without consciousness, a world that makes no sense to me.
In an enlightened age where modern technology creates feats of the stuff of miracles, connects one human to another from across the world, children are being sold on Backpage.com and trafficked, from a gutter and from one fancy hotel room to another with the establishments fully aware of the prostitution that goes on and to which they willingly, greedily turn a blind eye all in the name of making profit. There are men who enjoy torturing others, who get a rush from the ultimate violent act of raping a victim. This is the world we live in and most of us try to pretend that mysogeny doesn’t exist, that women have equal rights and are not discriminated against in fields of employment where they earn less than men.
I have to fight that world and to stand up to it and say no, but I cannot do it alone. I am fearful of what will take place in the 90 minutes of my group therapy session in just three days from now. Tomorrow will be a 13 hour day including class. I will get through the day just as I have fought so hard each day to make it through the last five years. In April it will have been exactly five years since the day I left, the day that my ex-husband and ex-abuser changed the locks on the door of my former prison and filed for divorce.
Help me please. Just help me and never leave me.

Survivor and Overcomer

Greek yogurt with raw honey and fresh cut strawberries – that was me doing something nice for myself, something kind to myself tonight. I just spent the last hour on Twitter reading posts from #rapeisnotokay and #sexualassaultsurvivor. Before that I attended my first group therapy meeting for survivors of sexual assault. The group wasn’t as intimate as I had hoped it would be. Instead of the 6 – 8 women I was expecting to see, there were 12 women and two female facilitators. We went over the group guidelines about confidentiality, respect, and setting boundaries. Then we introduced ourselves. We went around in a circle and I volunteered to go first. I said what I was hoping to get out of the group, which is healing, and that I was terrified of showing up today. I wasn’t the only one who was scared. Other women shared my sentiment.

It was amazing to see how these women, one by one, opened up about their sexual assault and sexual abuse stories, as discussions were held after the introductions. Someone is in trial to lock away her offender. Others have never spoken about it before, this being the first time. When I introduced myself I managed not to cry, but the next person did and then so did two people after that, as we went down the line. I lost it. I cried too. There were tissues readily available on the tables. We all sat in a circle. It was so sad to hear everyone talking about their stories. There are young women and older women. Every story of sexual abuse you can imagine came forth between these 12 women, including me.

I had kind of an emergency therapy session with my individual therapist yesterday in the middle of the day. I took time off of work to go. I was experiencing panic in relation to the therapy group I attended tonight and he was able to reassure me that ultimately, this will be healing, and that other women are surely afraid as well. He reassured me that he will help me, the subtext being that he will not leave my side and that I am not in this alone. He will monitor my mood and my progress throughout the weeks and I will try to pay attention to how I am doing as well. I am seeing him again tomorrow night and I am so indebted and lucky to have an individual therapist that I get to see. Many of these women in the group are on waiting lists to get into individual therapy. I am so goddamn fortunate.

Sad news came into my email inbox last night and I have been feeling disappointed and let down. I received a message that I was not selected for the group interview at the MFT graduate program which I was hoping to attend. “Everything happens for a reason,” a couple people told me in sympathy. “They are missing out on having someone great in their program” another person said. He was sorry for them, not for me. It was good to have another perspective to brood over.

This must just be a bump in the road. I studied for the graduate record exam for about six months. It was very challenging and I invested a lot of money into the prep courses. It looks like I will not be attending a state university. It was the most competitive program to get into and I thought I had a good chance of getting in. In fact, I was confident they would accept me into the program. Instead, the email notification said I can try to apply again next year.

There is a private university which has a 24 month program with year-round admission. One has to pay up front for each class every month and I believe each class is around $2,500. I suppose that is what loans are for. It’s significantly more expensive than the state university’s program, but not the most expensive. Other private universities are offering the same degree at a cost of $50,000 in tuition alone per year. That’s $100,000 for a two-year program. This field that I am going into is not a high-paying profession and if I were to be that much in debt, well, I have no idea when I would be able to pay that off. It looks like I am just going to have to start my MFT program later in the year. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to start; May is just around the corner. Perhaps that would have been too soon.

I’ve written about having difficulty with getting motivation to shower. Last night I was supposed to shower, but after the bad news of not getting admitted to the program which I had been counting on, I went to sleep abruptly on the couch because I didn’t want to deal with the sadness. This is day number three that I haven’t showered and as much as I would rather not shower tonight, I have to go to work tomorrow and it doesn’t look good (and it’s not normal) to show up to work with greasy hair. Damn it. Damn it all. I’d like to end this blog post on a positive note, but life just isn’t all that sometimes. I just have to focus on what needs to be done in the immediate future: shower and then study, sleep, go to work, attend therapy, write out my feelings in another blog post, study, sleep and do it all over again. Luckily I am seeing my therapist more than once a week these days.