To my dear friend,
To my readers,
Other than the number “five” added in below in not-so-surreptitious places, everything else is correct. The number of years of recovery and the number of years to get my MFT license are also correct. Ironically, this could have been a fictional story, but it’s not. This was one of the easiest scholarship essays I have written. I’m sure no one else will have a story like mine. The only thing I worry about is whether the essay judges will be concerned about not putting something so “serious” on their website and whether the judges’ views are affected by the stigma of mental illness. To some degree, all of us are affected by the stigma, no matter what side of it we stand on.
“May is the fifth month of the year. Write a letter to the number five explaining why five is important. Be serious or be funny. Either way, here’s a high five to you for being original.” (250 words or less)
On the fifteenth of May, five years ago, was the day I packed my car. I packed my car with all of the essentials: five pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks. I put in five shirts and five of my favorite shoes, just for sentiment. I drove to the other side of the state and it took five times two hours to get to my mom’s house.
Five hours was amount of time it took for him to get home to an empty house and a note written in blood. The next day he changed the locks of my former home and five days later I was served with divorce papers.
Five was the number of times I was hospitalized from my suicide attempts, trying to undo all of the hurt and the trauma which had existed during those five years of my life.
Five times ten is the number of years that I wish he would get sent to prison for having raped me repeatedly and abused the innocence of the first five years of my adult life. Five women of the court were present when I gave my testimony and five days later they told me the case couldn’t go forward because I didn’t have enough evidence to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it happened. Five years is how long it will take for me to become a trained marriage and family therapist so that I can help other women just like me.
My life is really good right now. It’s balanced. I am happy. I actually feel happiness these days. Yes, it’s true! It has been a good stretch of consistent happiness too, for the past two months, despite some upsets here and there. But overall, I am content.
I am throwing myself a party tomorrow! The last time I threw myself a party was for my birthday in 2013. I had several friends over to my place and my mom came to town to visit. She’s coming again tomorrow and I’ll be picking her up from the airport. It’s just a two-day trip but it’s enough, and it’s important to me. I want her to meet my friends, the people that I talk to every week. There will be 15 of us in my small apartment. I’ve already done the shopping. It’s an afternoon event, so just snacks will be provided. I have tortilla chips and hummus and brie and goat cheese and crackers and fig jam for the goat cheese, carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, grapes, banana bread. I have too much food and I think it will be lovely. My roommate said it all sounds healthy, but that’s the food that I would normally eat myself anyway. She is going to be making the guacamole from scratch – delicious!
I met someone who speaks Italian online today. He lives in the same city but we haven’t talked about getting together yet. We are just getting to know each other. I have big plans for the future! I may be planning a trip to Italy for next year! I just asked my boss today if I can take three weeks off and she gave the okay. I might want to stay longer but that would not be possible if I want to keep my job. I am very excited about this prospect.
I signed up for two undergraduate classes next year. The first is psychology 101 and it’s during the intersession, meaning a semester’s worth of work is crammed into four weeks. The next is child development 101 in an eight-week course. I want to get those classes out of the way before I travel to Italy, and I figure I should take them since I am going to be studying psychology in grad school. My first application is due next week and all I have left is to edit my personal statement which is a three-page essay.
I will be traveling to see my family for Christmas. I’m doing the eight hour drive to go see them. Hopefully I will stay at my brother’s house depending on his plans. My mom still is thinking of moving soon, but it hasn’t happened yet. Instead of a one-hour plane ride she will be a three-hour plane ride away. Still, it’s pretty close. I just don’t know how often I will see her.
I didn’t go to work today. I called in sick. Actually I emailed in, I didn’t even call. I stayed in bed literally all day, until 6:35 PM when I had to get up to go see my therapist for our weekly session. We agreed that I am going to see him twice a week for a while, and see how it goes. I have felt for a long time that once a week isn’t enough any more. I write him emails about my day every day and I’ve told him several times by email, but have never had the courage to say it in person yet, that once a week isn’t enough. In addition to seeing him this Saturday, he is going to help me look for a sexual abuse survivors group. I tried looking on my own and found a group that looks like it would work but after contacting the group therapist it turns out there are not enough people committed to the group to hold session. So he said he will keep me in mind. My therapist thinks that this would be a very good idea, since it appears there are still some things that I need to work through. Friends and family can’t understand because they haven’t gone through similar things that I have. They haven’t been sexually abused. They often can’t handle if and when I talk about it. But in a group it’s okay to talk about those things especially if the other people in the group have gone through similar experiences.
I am going to be getting more therapy. Therapy, therefore, will be more intensive. I am ready. I am ready to work hard in therapy. I want to work hard. I want to work harder than I have ever worked before, because I am sick of feeling sad and depressed. I am tired of the tears. They are exhausting. I didn’t have to feel today, because I was asleep. I didn’t have to think. But during my therapy hour, I felt deeply. I felt very deeply. And I cried a lot. I almost couldn’t stop crying. Sure, it must have been cathartic, but I felt as if I was drowning, and my therapist was there to keep me afloat.
I feel awake right now. I am awake. My eyes are open. For the first time today. I’ll have to go to work tomorrow, and I’ll have to do actual work while I’m sitting at my desk. I’ll have to find a way out of this darkness and despair. My therapist pointed out a pattern to me. It seems as if, now and then, I bring myself back into this very dark place. And it’s hard. It’s difficult. It’s really difficult. Why did I go on the internet and look up my ex-abuser’s name? Why did I try to do research? Logging into his old accounts. Looking for something. What did I think I was going to find? Something to prove his guilt? Some kind of justification for all of the pain I have been through, that he put me through, which I continue to put myself through?
I told my therapist I didn’t even brush my hair today. He said he didn’t brush his either. He’s funny like that, and it made me laugh. He doesn’t have much hair to begin with and it’s so very short. Of course, it was a joke to lighten the mood, my mood, and it worked. I admired his square lamps. I touched the fabric of the shade and ran my hand along it. I told him I don’t know anyone else with square lamps. Touching them was to ground myself. It was a way of bringing my mind back to the present, and I did it on my own, automatically. I have learned some coping skills over the years.
I think this next year is going to be hard, because I am ready to work hard. I have been through harder things before. I have gotten stronger and stronger over these last few years. I still have a long way to go. I used to have to sleep with the light on. I used to not be able to leave my apartment. I used to have much more difficulty with showering, though I still hem and haw about it, and that’s not a PTSD thing, I don’t think. There is so much wrong with me!!! How is it that I am supposed to live?! Not like this. Not like this. Not like this.
Why do I bring myself back to the dark places? Feelings come and then they go, and I remain. My mantra in therapy. Is there something I haven’t been able to let go of? The anger. The resentment. The monumentous amount of anger. That I was wronged. That I will never be able to get “justice”. That I have to keep living. Not like this. I can’t do it any longer. Not like this.
I just took a deep breath. Sometimes it helps to breathe. I love my therapist. We have such a deep, strong bond and connection. I trust him with everything, and I can tell him anything, even that I love him. There was a time when going to therapy twice a week was too much for me to handle, like I didn’t have enough time in between to recover. But things are different now. Things are different and I am stronger. I just keep getting stronger. Now I want to stop thinking about this and just lay on my couch in the dark of the night and not think.
I have to own my illness. I have to own my story. This is my story, not yours, damn it! You can’t tell me that I wasn’t a victim, that I knowingly took part in those acts, that I have responsibility to burden and bear. I was coerced, manipulated, infantilized, abused, exposed, indignified, raped, pimped, emotionally wounded, psychologically distressed, innocent…
I can’t go on. I started this rampage a day or two ago but I can’t go on. I am unable to concentrate at work. I toss and turn at night and wake up every hour. Ever since I found out that my ex-abuser is getting married, I’ve been wanting the world to know my story. The world! I want everyone that he knows to know my version of the story. Why? Why do I need their acknowledgement and validation? Why care about other people’s opinions? Why care about his happiness versus mine? I don’t! I care about the woman he is going to hurt over the next years, and the child that he might bring to this world who will have to live with him as a psychologically abusive, manipulative, childish, and potentially sexually abusive, objectifying father. God forgive us all if he has a girl. That’s abuse that could have been preventable. Or could it?
I can’t concentrate. I am infuriated. Beside myself. With anger, with rage. It’s not that he’s moving on in his life; we have both moved on. It’s that he’s sinking his fangs into another innocent soul. Someone probably unexpecting and susceptible just like I was.
I shared my last post, the “Warning Letter,” with a lot of people. I got mixed reviews. Some people told me simply that it was a great blog, that I’m such a good writer, that they’re proud of me. Some told me they would send it. Others have told me that it’s none of my business, their relationship and what goes on in between them, and that I should stay out of it, and focus on my own mental health. He’s totally the kind of person who would sue. If I sent her a warning letter, he would either serve me with a restraining order, sue me for defamation or harassment, and it would all be written off as me being the “jealous ex-wife” who’s still in love with him. Only I’m not.
I shouldn’t have looked him up in the first place. I shouldn’t have Googled his name. Why did I do it? To be honest, I’m not sure, but he has been in my dreams lately, in a different way. In my dreams, I am fighting back. I woke myself up one morning by punching the air and shouting out loud “asshole”. I couldn’t remember the rest of the dream, but that was the most important part, right there.
I shared the letter with a Catholic friend and she reminded me patiently to never, ever, ever send her anything about my story and the experiences I went through again because it is “tainting her purity” and she needs to protect herself. Seriously?! I mean, right, I guess I can understand. Some people just can’t handle the truth. But the memories of the abuse and the lasting effects and my past suicide attempts, those are something I have to live with every single day of my life. It is MY reality. It doesn’t go away. It isn’t always as intense but it doesn’t go away.
I shared the letter with one of his ex-employees. At first I told this person that my ex had cheated on me. That, he understood. Then I told him I had been sexually abused. He didn’t believe me. He said, “even if it were true (which I’m not saying it is) you played your part.” Personal responsibility and all that shit. That I’m not a victim. Is he saying I wanted it?? That I wanted to get raped and pimped out to hundreds of men?! I was vulnerable, yes. I was codependent and he was narcissistic and it played hand in hand. I lost myself to him and he was everything I lived for. I had no sense of self and no sense of reality or normalcy. My “normal” was what others would call a “living nightmare”.
How am I supposed to go back to work after this? I can’t even concentrate! All I am thinking about is this stupid letter and whether or not I should send it to this lady who will be his new wife, and knowingly not acknowledging that I really should not send the letter because I could get sued and I don’t want to lose all of my money to this, something that could be and will be preventable. The “not contacting him”. Or his wife. And I don’t want to have a restraining order on file.
In the end, it’s not my responsibility. It’s not my job to prevent another person’s life being potentially ruined. If it wasn’t her, it would be somebody else. I can’t stop him from living his life and hurting other people. Everything will come back to him in the end, right? Won’t it? He thinks he’s all that. He has rich, powerful, influential friends and business contacts. So what? It can’t hurt me, as long as I stay out of it.
I’ve wondered for a long time and have gone back and forth on whether I should publish my abuse and survivor story under my real name or under a pen name. If I do it under my real name, that story will forever be associated with my name, and will be on the internet, for anyone to see. If, however, I publish under a chosen identity that is not mine, then my story will be out there to help others potentially, without it harming me. But I want justice! I want people to know the truth! Is that so egotistical? Or is it normal to feel that way? We can have feelings, which doesn’t mean we have to act on those feelings.
I’m all confused. I don’t know what to do. I feel jumbled up inside my mind. I want to see my therapist tonight but I don’t get to see him until tomorrow. I want my mind to rest, to be at peace. I want to be okay with myself and my body and my life and my mind. I want to have health, and happiness, and children, and an intimate, adult, mature, sexual relationship with another person. I want to live again and I want to stop spending weekends in bed because I am only hurting myself. I still dread the weekends because I have nothing to look forward to and despite having slept all weekend I do not feel “rejuvenated” after the weekend. I just go to work in that same mental space of drudgery.
So, in the end, do I really own my story? Can I fess up to the people who are closest to me that my story is my reality and that I live in that reality every day? The knowledge of what happened to me haunts me and makes me a better and stronger person all at the same time. I wouldn’t be who I am without my past, yet I wish my past had not been as it was. I would much rather have a more simple life than the one I was dealt. I would much rather know myself and be fully okay with myself. I’m working on it. Slowly. Every day. Step by step. Moment by moment. I can do this.
Instead of committing suicide on Tuesday evening, I went grocery shopping and prepared myself a nice dinner. My therapist talked me out of it. If I had to rate the intensity of my desire to kill myself, 10 being the highest, it was 10/10. I considered myself completely rational. “I know this is mental illness and not normal wanting to kill yourself, but I am completely clear-headed,” I said to my therapist. He gently corrected me by reminding me, “it’s a symptom of mental illness.” My plan was to park in the middle of our famous suicide bridge, on which there are suicide hotline signs for the length of the bridge, and then to sit on the edge for a bit, and then “accidentally” fall. My therapist said that officials wouldn’t consider this to be an “accident”.
What triggered me? I wasn’t supposed to go into the conversation with the district attorney with expectations, but I did. There is a part of me which wants justice, and wants to see my ex-abuser put in prison and to be held accountable for his actions. What he did to me over a period of six years was unspeakable, though I have found a voice. The purpose of me giving my verbal statement was to finally get the story out to the justice system, just to tell my story, so that I can continue my healing journey and start to leave the trauma in the past. Talking about the details of the trauma was bound to bring up feelings from the past. On Tuesday of last week, I celebrated. I was on an emotional high after an intense two weeks leading up to it of preparation and anxiety. I maintained that slight euphoria for a few days. I checked out over the weekend by hibernating in my bed so that I wouldn’t have to be awake and psychologically face the reality of the news I got on Friday: that we cannot move forward with the case for lack of evidence. One woman’s voice is not enough, but if another woman comes forward against him in the future, that would be the evidence we need to revive my case. So basically, I thought all of this was for nothing. What was the point of the last four years of painful struggling if it culminates in this very significant event and nothing can be done about it? What then? Why?
Tuesday morning upon waking, I had emotional difficulty in getting up, as usual. I wanted to stay in bed and to not face the day. I didn’t want to go to work (I know many people feel this, but my aversion to going to work is I believe stronger than others). A cloud set over my head while I sat at my desk. I began to think that I didn’t want to be here, on this earth, and that I would rather be dead, or not alive (it’s the same thing but it sounds different). By lunchtime I was actively feeling suicidal and talking to my TalkSpace therapist about those feelings, since I’m able to message her at any time throughout the day. By the afternoon I had decided that I wanted to kill myself and by late afternoon I had come up with a plan. I also had strong intent of carrying the act through, which is when we know the situation is dangerous. I didn’t care about keeping myself “safe”. I was tired of it. In the last several days I had already spoken with my mother and my brother, and even my grandfather, and I thought of those conversations as “goodbye’s”. I just needed to say goodbye to my dear therapist.
He was not willing to accept my goodbye. He listened to my plans, which I explained in detail. He came up with reasons for me to not kill myself, and I shot down every one of them. There were moments of silence whilst he allowed me to think and process my thoughts, and I attempted to force a smile, to let him know that I was okay with my decision to kill myself that night.
Halfway through our psychotherapy session was when he got to me. He said, “you haven’t been a mother yet.” I rationalized, “there are plenty of other mothers out there.” But then he said, “what if your brother had a child?” I caved in. I said, “I would be a pretty good auntie. If it were a girl that would be even better. I would visit often and spoil her.” My therapist knows that I like to knit, which I haven’t done in a while, and he said that the baby would need little socks, and mittens, and scarves. “And a soft blanket!” I chimed in. “But I’ve forgotten how to knit,” I protested. “You will learn,” he said confidently. “Being an auntie is something to keep in mind because it’s important to you,” he reminded me.
And that was it. I complained that he wasn’t making saying goodbye to him easy. He said, “that’s not my job, to make it easy for you.” I said that my therapist from the DBT program at the hospital would probably not want me to die. He agreed and said that he doesn’t want me to die either. I actually smiled. I agreed to not drive out to the bridge. “That’s what I was waiting to hear,” he said. He recommended I go to my favourite grocery store and buy myself something nice to prepare for dinner. “Do you like mochi?” he asked. “Yes, I do!” “They have chocolate and strawberry ice cream flavours…” “And green tea! That’s my favourite!” I was enthusiastic about this idea. He had gotten me from the point of being dead serious about having the police find my drowned and broken body in the bay, to agreeing (not wanting) to stay alive and to treat myself to a dinner that was nice. It ended up being a microwave-from-frozen meal but it was filling and lovely. Instead of having a mochi ice cream ball I had a chocolate lava cake for dessert, even though I wasn’t hungry any more. Because I could. Because I deserved it after a day like that day.
“So then I don’t need to go to a hospital?” “No.” he replied softly. We set up another appointment for a week from Tuesday, at the same time, and I parted with him by saying, “see you next week.” “Bye.” was his only answer, and the last thing he said to me before I walked out and pushed the squeaky door open in order to ride down the elevator and go out into the dimming light of the warm evening.
For the last two months I have been tracking my suicidal thoughts and ideation. Last month it happened twice. This month it has been once so far. Looking back, it actually happens to me on a monthly basis. Not weekly, not daily as it used to be, but monthly. Having recovered from Tuesday, my desire now is to even go one month without feeling suicidal. That would be an accomplishment, although it is not in my control. Not entirely. There will be days when I feel sad, just as there are days when I feel suicidal.
After I left my therapist’s’ office I stayed in the parking lot of his building in my car for an hour madly texting people. I finally had the courage to confront my aunt who has seemed to be so unsupportive. I stopped by a coffee shop to use their free toilet (in America we say “bathroom” but in Europe we just say “toilet”, saying it like it is). I stayed in the parking lot for a while texting. I drove the short distance to the grocery store. I sat in the parking lot sending out more messages. Two and a bit hours later I finally got home. I managed to have dinner before my completely unaware roommate came home. She has no idea that I suffer in this way. Later, two friends each called me for support and I remained on the phone with them until about 11:30 that night. I got a lot of positive encouragement, which continued for the next couple days, which brings me to today. I’m actually writing this blog on my lunch break at work, and I’ll have to pick it up later again.
I feel as if I don’t know how to express myself today and writing in my blog is a feeble attempt at trying. The last few days have been trying. I don’t know where to begin. Whenever I say that to my therapist he says something to the effect of “That means there are many places you could begin” meaning that I have a whole world of possibilities and the oyster is mine.
I have been crying and thinking about my therapist now helps to ground me. He knows me in and out. He knows everything about me. He knows how to talk to me. I wish I could be with him right now. He tells me that even when I’m not with him I can still hold a part of him in my mind, and in that way, he is always with me. Everything he has taught me, every single one of his comforting words, they stay with me. As I try to grasp onto this concept right now it has its’ way of “sfuggire” or dissipating and escaping me.
I notice that I am rubbing the skin of my neck and chest, trying to rub off the dirt that is on my skin. I have to stop and bring myself back to being present. I am not dirty. But doing that feels comforting.
My period just started. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I spent the last 22 hours in bed. I am having cramping and it’s painful. Normally my periods are pain-free. Why today of all days is my lower abdomen hurting me? It feels as if an elephant is sitting on my intestines.
My thoughts are sporadic and my paragraphs short. I am finding it difficult to reign in my thoughts. I want to tell of the extreme disappointment I am feeling. I heard from the Deputy District Attorney yesterday afternoon. She was so kind to me over the phone. I thought that she would want to just relay the verdict and then get off the phone as quickly as possible but she lingered. She stayed on with me. She told me that she sat with her supervisor for hours going over the case. But that there is no evidence that would convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt”. It hurts me to say that. The justice system has failed our country and another rapist gets to roam this earth free.
The DDA told me that the outcome of this case has nothing to do with credibility. She believes my story. The sheriff believes my story. The DDA said she can’t imagine a jury not believing my story, but that there is just no evidence. I am crushed. I feel devastated. I feel broken inside. I feel as if the world just isn’t right. How do I make it right? How do I go on with my life? I want to quit now and become institutionalized. I don’t want to deal with my life. Everything feels like too much. I need my therapist. He is my pacifier. He helps me. I don’t want to help myself.
The DDA told me how strong I am. She noted how far I’ve come since my abuse ended, and that I am financially independent now for the first time in my life. She said she is on a committee that organizes a rally every October for domestic violence awareness month, and that we can honour those victims who didn’t make it out alive, who weren’t so lucky. I forget that domestic violence can be deadly.
I keep taking breaks. I can’t go on like this. I can’t tell my story all at once. I’ve gotten up, spit phlegm from crying in the sink, drank my soy milk, crawled back into bed, have laid down on my couch, all in between paragraphs. I suppose I feel restless. I also feel helpless. How do I get my power back after this? How am I supposed to find my voice? Isn’t that what I’m trying to do by writing in this very moment?
My abuser got to move on with his life four years ago, as soon as I exited his life. He gets to go on to abuse other people. And here I am, four years later, still suffering in this mental prison of mine.
The case doesn’t just end there and get put on a dusty shelf. The DDA said she is keeping the case file in her office, because it’s her case now. And I know she spent a lot of time on it, reading all of my journals and becoming familiar with the details of the case. If another woman ever comes forward in the future, that will be the evidence which is needed to revive my case. Unfortunately, one woman’s voice is not enough.
My TalkSpace therapist has also been helping me. She fills me with encouraging words, pointing out that I am strong, and that I have come so far, and validating that the things which happened to me were awful and that I didn’t deserve them. It’s not okay that they happened, but in order to move on I have to own my experiences and let them become a part of me and be present, rather than dissociating.
My head is in my hand, my shoulders slumped, my back necessarily being supported by a firm pillow on my couch. My legs are cross-legged with my blanket over my lap. I can hear the murmur of the refrigerator in the background. The air is stifling hot. It feels as if no air is being circulated in this enclosed apartment. I wonder if my upstairs neighbour heard me cry? I am glad that my roommate isn’t home so that I could sob as loudly as I needed to.
My roommate just came home. It’s 11 PM and an hour has passed since I started this blog. I am not up for company. I am not okay with this. No one else knows what I am dealing with in my mind. No one knows that I feel dead to the world, that I slept all day, that sleep is a form of disconnecting to life. My family doesn’t know how I struggle because they have their own struggles as well. My mom has to work 6 to 7 days a week for a delivery company because she is unable to find a regular job. She’s constantly tired, stressed. I wonder if she’s depressed. I feel as if I am alone in this little life that I lead. That I am alone and that no one knows how I’m struggling. I just want validation that I exist. I just need to keep making it to the next hour and the next day, day by day, hour by hour. I can do this only because I have to.
I made it to my birthday. I made it past my birthday. I made it to here. Here is where my true new road begins. The road where I can leave all of the bad things in the past and finally look forward. I have been humming along to an Adele song throughout the day. It just popped into my head this morning as I was driving to the Hall of Justice and repeating my mantra and prayers. I know the tune but the only actual words to the song that I know are “how bittersweet this could be,” and “and sometimes it hurts instead.” I could look up the lyrics but never mind that. I like the picture that is created in mind from my memory. Those quotes are very appropriate for describing my morning.
My day started at 7:00 with the sound of my first of three alarm clocks. I made time to eat strawberries which I had washed and cut the night before, and some yogurt. I made Earl Grey tea with the tea bags my mom had sent me. The sun had already been awake for some time by the time I stepped out of my front door. It was difficult to find parking downtown and it was also expensive. None of that bothered me. What was important was that I had arrived on time.
As the victim advocate led me into the conference room they had set aside for the morning, I saw two other women in suits. They stood up and introduced themselves and greeted me. I sat down and as I was listening to the intro speech I broke out in tears. It was intimidating walking into that room, with the door closed. There were tissues. I had my cup of hot tea to comfort me. I had dressed up but was still wearing comfortable clothes. I knew I was going to be okay.
It took about two hours to tell my story. That’s an hour less than during my practise run with my friend the week before. She hadn’t heard my story before then. The sheriff took occasional notes on a notepad whilst the district attorney was fully attentive, and ready to make eye contact whenever I was ready. I couldn’t for the hard parts. In front of the DA there was a two-inch neat and organized pile of paper which consisted of the documentation for the case. At the end, I was reassured that this documentation stays on file. It doesn’t go anywhere. It will even be scanned in for electronic files.
It was impossible to go in chronological order. The important bits came to mind sporadically and I jumped from topic to topic. I spoke of general trends of the abusive relationship and I also gave specific examples. Unfortunately coercion and manipulation and brainwashing are not illegal. Rape is. And the sexual abuse falls under the category of domestic violence, which is also illegal. But I didn’t make any reports to the police at the time that they happened, so there was no record of these events having happened. Driving someone to suicide also isn’t illegal. The justice system is not something that I would ever want to fully comprehend. How it works, why it works, why some rapists go free of any charges, how justice doesn’t always come to fruition.
Let’s take a break and enjoy the fact that I have hot peach tea brewing in one of my favourite huge Italian mugs, with saucer, of course. I hand-picked them at different stores back when I had money, that is, substantial alimony. All of which has been rightfully spent, because it needed to be. I needed to be able to sustain myself. Now I have a stable, full-time job, and I am supporting myself. I don’t have to rely on anyone. I have healthier relationships in the people with which I surround myself. There is a state fund for victims of crimes for which I applied today. They might be able to help me pay for some of my therapy. I wish I had known about this years ago. I am glad for any help I can get. However, it’s also nice to be able to have private health insurance. It’s a luxury that some people just cannot sustain.
By the end of the week I will learn the outcome of the case. The DA will contact me herself. It’s likely there will not be a hearing, during which I would have to face my assailant in front of a judge. It’s even less likely that from there it would go to trial. But I won’t know until I know so there’s no saying where this will go. My professor friend, with whom I spent the rest of the day, says that I cast a shadow upon him. No matter what happens, this case will always be on file, and if in the future he does something stupid and his victim gets out alive as I did, and they report it, there will be my case to reference.
Burden of proof. That’s a phrase ringing in my ear. It’s a new term. I’m not familiar with the courts. We, meaning those supporting me, would have to bear the burden of proof. I’m not going to meet up with a former rapist of mine, like I was planning on doing last week. He has media, photos and video, of sexual acts from eight years ago. But it does not prove that those acts were non-consensual or forced.
They said they believe me. Every woman in that room today believes my story. They repeated this several times so that it would stick with me. The outcome of this case has nothing to do with credibility. The district attorney said she read every single word that I wrote, my outline, my 20-page summary, all of the emails and journals from the past that I had forwarded. She knows my case inside and out, from my perspective. She knows what happened to me. Someone in the justice system finally has heard my story. This is where I am supposed to move on.
“No matter what happens today, my life will still move forward.” This was a mantra that one of my therapists suggest I repeat to myself. I did, on the drive down, and on the walk to the building. I do and I don’t want this to go further. I am not ambivalent. I am for and against it. I am for it because that would mean an evil abuser gets called out for his actions, and against it, because I would have to face him in person and become retraumatised.
I wish the sheriff had said more during the meeting. That wasn’t her job, it was to be a witness. But I wanted to connect with her too, the way I had with the DA. I thought that this was going to be guided and directed by them, but I had free reign of topic and conversation direction. The main thing that was important is that everyone was really nice to me and treated me with respect and gentle kindness. No judgements were passed. They just listened.
The rest of the afternoon was celebratory. I met my semi-retired professor friend at a park. We walked and talked and stood and talked. His glasses change shade when he’s in the sun, and I was wearing a hat I rarely don. We exchanged stories. I handed him my purse and ran ahead of him like a teenager might do. I stretched my arms and hands out for extended periods of time to signify that “I am free”. I am in an open stance, not closed up. Had I gone home and stayed home after this big day, I would have closed up, curled into myself on my couch, lost myself to a nap. I’m glad the day panned out so wonderfully. We went to the pier, had a fresh fish sandwich. He treated me. We went for a long, two-hour walk up and down the water. We talked about sex and relationships and abused children (he is a child development professor). He suggested I think about signing up to be a Big Sister down the road, maybe this Fall. Three hours minimum per week for a year. I can do that. It’s that young person’s therapy, but it would be so good for me too, to be a mentor to a teen who needs a role model. I would try to specifically request for a child who has been sexually abused. Because that’s where I want to go with my therapy training eventually.
I have this mere hour at home, before I drive to see a female friend whom I have known for eight years. She knew me when all of the bad things were happening in my life, although we weren’t close at the time. She has seen me come a long way. From spontaneously breaking down in sobs at the beach a year ago of being overwhelmed by the past, memories, and sensory stimulation around other people, to where I am today. Both feet are on the ground and I am standing up and walking forward, albeit cautiously with a wise mind. We are going to spend time together tonight to celebrate some more. Many people who know me know what a significant role today’s actions play in my life.
I am allowed to personify parts of my body. No one else may ever take that liberty again. And thus, I maintain that my stomach is “happy” (thus it emotes) and my mind is finally at rest, after two weeks of anxiety leading up to my statement today. I know who I am. I know who I want to become. I know where I want to go. I see myself achieving those goals step by step. I see myself in the field of psychology, and I know I can make it through the hard years of studying and training to get there. I can’t see myself doing anything else for a career. I want to have a career. Whereas ten years ago my biggest hope was to be a stay-at-home mom, and that is an endeavour which I so commend, it’s no longer something I aspire to. In addition to helping any possible future child of mine, I need to be helping other people. I need to pay my eight years of psychotherapy forward. Compassion for others and kindness to myself will help me get there at a healthy pace. I feel good, and although that feeling might not last for very long, as my emotions still go in waves, I am going to enjoy it for the moment. Because I deserve it. And I am so very worthy of this life I am living now.
Today has been a good day, although trying and not without difficulties. I managed to get out of bed today to meet my semi-retired professor friend at 11:00 for coffee at the usual place. We meet at a Starbucks that is attached to a Barnes & Noble. I love book stores although I rarely go to them. They’re full of endless possibilities. I have known this friend for four years now. I can’t believe it. We spent four hours together at the coffee shop in the mall. We talked about so much, and all of it was to ground me and prepare me for Tuesday, my talk with the district attorney. It will be an important marker of my healing process. Once my story is told, officially to authorities who have the power to convict, then there’s nothing else I can do. That’s it. It’s out of my hands. I wash my hands clean of the past. They will know that he watches child pornography, is a rapist, and a master manipulator, though the latter isn’t a crime. I’m so curious to see if the case goes anywhere. If it went to trial I would have to put my whole life on hold. But that’s all speculation. I have to focus on me, my mental well-being, and focus on just telling the story. I’m so nervous! But the victim advocate said I don’t have to be worried because the DA will direct the conversation and will be the one asking the questions.
I don’t want to talk about my trauma today. I can skirt around the issue. At the end of our day, after my friend having shared stories of child molestation, and how he, as a professor of child development and having taught sex ed. classes, helped victims get out of those situations, I spoke with him about me wanting to write a book. If it’s non-fiction he said I wouldn’t be able to change any of the names or details. I want people to know what happened to me but I don’t want to expose myself to the world, I want to do it anonymously. So it would have to be a fiction book “based on a true story”. My story doesn’t have any sort of happy ending in it; I’m still in the middle of it. But I’ve come so far. I would have to imagine a happy ending for a book though.
I’m just resting now. Part of writing this is for healthy self-evaluation and reflection. It gives my mind a break whilst I therapy myself in this way. It helps me to focus my thoughts. I had microwaved from frozen pesto tortellini and didn’t wait for it to cool down, so now I have a burned owie spot on my tongue. Then I finished my Haagen Dazs white chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream and I’m pretty content. It is said to not go shopping when you’re hungry, and that’s why I have ice cream in my freezer and Milano cookies in the pantry.
I have to go to an adult birthday party soon. I would much rather it be a kids’ party. I don’t feel like going. I don’t want to socialize with a bunch of people right now. And I want all my energy focused on the statement I’m going to be giving on Tuesday. But my friend today said that I can go for just a little while and then go home. I bought her a candle at Bath & Body Works because I didn’t know what else to get her and I know she likes candles. She reads a lot but I forget what sort of books she enjoys. I enjoy reading about psychology, especially fictional stories of psychotherapeutic sessions such as the work by Dr. Irvin Yalom.
Alright, I just got caught up the last half hour looking at posts on my newly “liked” Yalom Facebook page. So many positive comments. It’s so cool that his work has been translated into so many languages. Well, that was a distraction. I am just breathing right now. I took a moment to put my head in my hand. One might have thought I was looking down in shame. No, I’m just exhausted thinking about Tuesday with the DA. It has been my entire focus for the last two weeks. Of course it brings up bad memories. My therapist told me this is normal and part of the process. Hopefully when I am done telling my story I will be able to begin putting the past in the past and leaving it there.
I am worthy. I am so worthy of life. I am worth something. I am worth so much. I feel it, right now, in this moment. I am practising self-kindness. I am being gentle with myself. I am not downgrading my self esteem with negative thoughts against myself. I embrace my body, almost every inch of it. I am allowed to cry when I want to. I don’t always have to smile if I don’t want to. I am fundamentally a good person. I forgive myself for those times that I was less than perfect. I seek good in other people. I am allowed to have a future. The future is mine and no one else’s. I can create happiness from within. I have the capacity to be at peace with myself. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.
I don’t want to generalize and then jump into specifics, and therefore interrupt the idyllic nature of the above paragraph, yet I must. It is Thursday night. On Tuesday I am going to the district attorney’s office downtown. I will be there before 9:00. That’s when my interview starts. It’s not really an interview. I believe, officially, I will be giving my statement. I’ve been calling it a dissertation in my mind. Calm before the storm, only I hope there will be no storm. Biting my nails. How do I go on? It’s a statement. I will be telling them everything. I don’t know if I will be able to tell everything. They will be directing the conversation. It may be recorded. “They” refer to the district attorney and the sheriff. The two of them and the victim advocate will be there in the room. The victim advocate will be there for support. They are all female. I am so grateful for this. There will be no men in the room. I imagine the room is going to feel cold and stark with bare white walls and a table in a middle with chairs around it. This is where I am going to be spending up to three hours. I am going to tell them everything.
The district attorney’s job is to seek truth and justice. The justice part I may as well lay to the side because it is probably unlikely that this case will ever see the inside of a courtroom. The attorney has to be able to prove to the 12-person jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that these things that I am saying are the truth. The fact is that I have very little proof. I have some photos, some old emails, an old Craigslist account that I was able to log in to. But the valuable part of the case is me. This is all about me, not about a justice I cannot hope for. Without my testimony this trial wouldn’t stand a chance. There wouldn’t even be a trial.
I didn’t think that the DA would be willing to reopen the case. But she did! It was a surprise to me. I am therefore grateful that I get to tell my story to someone official in the justice system. Because that’s all I can do. I cannot do more than that. I am not the law. I can’t make someone go to jail. But I can bring light to what happened to me rather than keeping it in the dark. My therapist knows every intricate detail. He probably knows more than I know even though I lived it. That’s because I forget things because I compartmentalize my memories in order to live with the knowledge that these things actually happened to me. There are shitty people in the world but I am not one of them.
It’s next week. I have been fretting about this case since I first contacted the DA’s office two weeks ago. It has been torturing my mind. Often this week I have found myself at work staring at the screen, and in my mind I am somewhere completely different: I am in the room where I was gang raped, I am dressed up in nothing dancing on a pole at the Porn Convention, I am trying to fight him off and saying no and him climbing on top of me anyway to do his business (because I was an object to him and not a person), I am in a bar being fed more alcohol than I can handle. I am not at work concentrating at my tasks at hand and making the outbound phone calls I need to be making. I am pretty far behind at work, at least a week behind. On good days I am only two days behind, but not these last two weeks. My mind has been occupied with something else and it has been very distracting.
I keep wanting to tell people, and then reminding myself that they don’t need to know, and that it’s better to not know. Plenty, or enough people know already. The DA, the victims advocate, the sheriff, my aunt abroad, my new coffee shop girl friend, my therapist, my theater friend, my mom. They all are aware of what I’m going to be doing on Tuesday. It is a big day. It will be a marking day, a significant day in my life. It has been just over four years since I left. I walked out and drove away and never saw him again. The divorce was finalized a year later. Now I am going back to then, reaching back into my memory, and telling my story so I can find closure to this chapter of my life. I am not actively suicidal any more although the thought still crosses my mind briefly at times. I didn’t want to kill myself. I didn’t want to end my life at all. I wanted to end the pain and mental torture, and escape the mental prison that I was being held in. I didn’t want to leave him and I couldn’t bear what he was doing to me so the only logical conclusion was to kill myself. I fought that for five years, from 2010 to 2015. Now it’s 2016 and things are different. I know I can choose to live. I know I don’t have to kill myself. I choose life.