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.

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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.

 

Four Words

“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.

What Trauma Memories Do To Me

The emotional pain has subsided for now, but I know it will be back. It always comes back. That’s the thing about the ebb and flow of depression and PTSD. It comes and then it goes, and it leaves turmoil in its wake. Only my therapist and two friends know that I stepped out of my office in the middle of the afternoon today to cry, no, wail, in my car for fifteen minutes. I mean, I cried for fifteen and then had to recover for another fifteen so that I could hide the red, splotchy eyes and dry my tears. No one else, not even my family, knows of the pain I am experiencing.

My therapist booked me as soon as possible upon my request. I will be seeing him in about thirteen hours. I am counting. This is all in anticipation of the therapy group I will be starting this week. It hasn’t even begun and memories of things my abuser said and did have flooded my mental space. It is difficult to concentrate at work. The feelings that were brought up were unexpected and out of the blue. I did not want them to take over my day!

What happened to me wasn’t fair. No person deserves to be treated the way I was, to be manipulated, used, abused, raped, talked down to, isolated from social contact all in the means of controlling the subject. He told me that I always played the victim, and that really, he was the victim. It was I who was manipulating him. It was I who was punishing him. Let me ask you this: who wouldn’t want to find some means of punishment for a man who just sold your body to a stranger for financial gain? Even if it was the silent treatment. I was desperate to find some form of expression, because I couldn’t get away. I could not fathom a life without him. I had become a possession of his, and anything he told me to do, I would do.

Until the day I wouldn’t. After he realized he could no longer manipulate me, have me be a “good” wife and a “good” girl by doing everything he told me to do, then he had no use for me. He had planned to divorce me, I imagine, far in advance of whence I knew of his plan. All of a sudden he filed for divorce, and my life came crashing down. I was out of physical danger from him, but everything I had known up until that point was no longer in force, and the damage he had left upon my being was far greater than even I could imagine.

One person knows. And that person is my therapist. He saw me through all of it. The suicide attempts, the self harm, the hospitalizations and the 5150’s, my inability to talk, my continual self punishment because I thought I was inherently a bad person who was deserving of punishment, my fear of people and of trusting and of abandonment. He is the one person who knows it all, and that is how it should be. One person, one human being, can make all the difference in the world in another person’s life.

The pain has subsided and I am able to type without my head banging on the invisible wall of despair. I will see my therapist and we will figure out together if I will be attending the sexual assault survivor’s group therapy course in two days. Ultimately, it’s my choice. I have already told him I am not ready for this; I admitted it just two days earlier to him. Yet, I still want to do it. Is this a form of self-punishment? To be honest, I think it is. I know that there is healing potential in group therapy, sitting side by side other women who have experienced some of what I went through, but I have been tortured this week in preparation for it. Really, it’s not preparation but trepidation. I am unbelievably scared about what this group therapy course might bring up for me: the memories, the feelings. Memories of trauma can be just as scary, in my opinion, more scary, than when the events happened. At least when it was happening, I could dissociate, and in a way, not be present in my mind as to what was happening to my body.

The memories of trauma don’t just go away. They persist over time. But it has been almost five years now since the end of that toxic relationship. It was killing me because I wanted to kill myself. Well, here I am, still alive. I’m not currently suicidal, and that is a good thing. I hope it stays that way and if it doesn’t, I can always go to the hospital. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. There are ways to get through this. One way would be to not attend this group. No, I don’t think I can do it. But I might anyway. Maybe my therapist can help to dispel my ambivalence.