Suicidal Thoughts, OCD, and Mental Health Talk

Lately, I have been feeling stressed. Most of it is work stress. There is a finite level of the human capacity to tolerate stress, and I was close to that ceiling today. I took time off of work in the middle of the day to see my therapist because I needed to see him three times this week and that was the only time which was going to work. He helped me talk through the concerns which have been giving me anxiety at work in regards to my new assistant. I feel responsible for her progress because I am the one training her. However, I am not her supervisor and I do not have the authority to correct her behavior. I am worried that her motivation might not be as high as I hoped it would be and six weeks into the job I just thought she would get it by now. But I have to give her leeway because the learning curve in this industry is steep and she has no prior experience. I want her to be making more phone calls and taking on more tasks and I’m worried about not being able to trust her with projects to take on her own. She has been consistently late to work and she does not dress appropriately professionally. All of things are going to be looked at and handled by our supervisor now. What was hard was handing over that responsibility to someone else because I thought I could handle it. But my boss said she didn’t want to put me in that position. She’s right.

I just ate a chocolate that is at least three years old. It was Ghirardelli with raspberry filling, only the filling had sunken in on itself. It tasted okay though I was hesitant at first bite. People give me chocolates and I just don’t eat them.

I found a new walking path today. Because of the time change and the fact that it is lighter for longer in the evening, I had decided to go for a walk by my home. My neighborhood is not ideal for walking: there are long roads with only one sidewalk and cars which go by at fast speeds. I went walking along one of those roads. It crosses over a freeway. The bridge over the freeway is not very high, but I imagined myself jumping off the edge into the traffic below. I would probably only break a foot or leg, but the cars going by at 75 miles per hour in the fast lane would surely kill me. Only, if I survived, I might be physically impaired for the rest of my life and it would be very hard to kill myself then. I didn’t think about that at the time.

I thought about that if I survived, and another person died on the scene due to the car accident, then I would be convicted for involuntary manslaughter or some sort of charge and I would have to serve jail time and then it would be very difficult to find employment. If I had a criminal record I would not be permitted to work with children and the idea of my future career change would be out of question. I would be stuck in a minimum wage job because that’s the only type of job which would be willing to employ me and I would be on state healthcare and unable to travel or buy nice foods or do anything that costs money. So, I kept on walking, both times that I crossed the bridge, and I left my fleeting thoughts behind me on the bridge each time. I didn’t take them with me.

I had a nice dinner, leftover sweet potato curry from a restaurant, and it was delicious. Yellow sauce and whole pieces of soft yam and potato and some mushrooms, with rice on the side. I recently bought jasmine tea, which I haven’t had for some time in my pantry, and I am really enjoying sipping on it. I should be studying but I’m not. The cat is on the carpet right in front of where I am sitting and I had to reprimand him a few minutes ago for scratching on my cloth ottoman in the middle of my L-shaped couch. The couch is light green and I really love the color. My paperwork from school and job interviews and college applications have been littering the living room for the past month. I want it out so I can visually see it, and be reminded that, oh yeah, I still have that essay to write, or oh yes, there’s the New Yorker Magazine from the subscription my Mum got me which I never take the time to read. I told her not to renew it last year but I was too late. “They were having a discount,” she claimed.

Every day I catch myself rubbing my skin to get the dirt off of me. Only, it doesn’t consume my hours any longer, it’s just a little skin rubbing here and there. It’s part of the OCD category of symptoms, but doing it soothes me and at the same time it feels productive because I actually get dirt off of me. They come off in miniscule amounts which my therapist and my aunt have told me are dead skin cells. But I don’t believe it even though the rational side of my brain knows that they are right. I am still uncomfortable with the topic of sex and when it comes to my body, I don’t like to think about it. I feel fat even though I’ve weighed the same amount for the past two years, which is the first time in my life ever that my weight hasn’t fluctuated drastically. I used to be very skinny and it was absolutely unhealthy, but at least I didn’t feel fat (even though my ex abuser told me I was). I am supposed to look at myself as beautiful but the best I can muster is “eh, I look decent.”

My therapist doesn’t judge me. He doesn’t like to diagnose me and never tells me that there is something wrong with me. He guides me and makes gentle suggestions or gets me to think about a situation in a new perspective that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. Therapists aren’t supposed to diagnose anyway, unless it’s for an insurance company. Having a diagnosis sucks, although some people find it useful to have a label for their symptoms, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or OCD, to name a few. Five years ago I met the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, and now I no longer do. So it seems to me that it must have been PTSD symptoms instead. Because, how does a personality inherently change? A personality defines a person. Labels don’t define me. And I don’t have BPD. I have major depressive disorder, but it’s something that I have but not something that I am.

In Healing From a Violent Passion

I am going to keep living my life. I am going to keep on inspiring others by continuing on with my life no matter what obstacles come in my way. I don’t care if I inspire one or a hundred people. One person can make a difference. If I touch one person, just one person, then my mission, my goal, my heart will be complete. Every day is a battle in it’s own right. Every day I face challenges that have to do with my mental health. It’s just like everyone else in the world! It’s called being human.

My struggle on the grand scale of life may not be monumentous, but it has been for me. In trying to end my life, I have begun my new life. I have formed a new identity and a new way of thinking, feeling, and living. I have something called self-esteem, and it’s not based on my looks and my sexuality like it used to be. In fact, I am celibate, and sex does not enter my life at all. It’s by choice and it’s for a good reason. I want to have a child some day, and I’m planning on going to a sperm bank to make it happen because I never want to have sex with a man again. That might change one day, but this is where it stands now.

Next month it will have been five years since the day I left my abuser. I literally packed my car with everything that would fit in it, mostly clothes, and drove for nine hours straight to the other side of the state to get away from him. I wish that would have been the last time I saw him, but unfortunately I ran into him once soon thereafter. He was mocking me by asking if I had children now, when he saw that I had a child’s car seat in the back of my car because I was helping my friend take care of her child. And yet, I was still unhealthily emotionally tied to him, attached to him. Even though it was I who left, it was not I who had filed for divorce, and I was emotionally not even close to being ready to leave him. It was the physical urge, the sexual abuse, the fear, the act of self-preservation, which had led me into action by packing up my car and leaving.

And so, before he left me that one time, he asked to have one last kiss. And that kiss was deadly because it was tender and gentle. The years of psychological manipulation came to a front and messed with me for months thereafter. I was torn at being in the process of divorce yet still believing I loved him. It was because of the love that I had stayed so long. It was because of that unhealthy bond and extreme level of attachment and forced dependency which made me allow him to abuse me.

I had been vulnerable when he started dating me: I grew up without a male role model or model of how a healthy relationship should be. I was angry with my mother for a life of inconsistency and unhealthy boundaries between mother and child, and having suffered the wrath of her keen temper. I was a teenager and not yet fully mature. And his manipulation started from the get-go, only I did not notice it. I thought we were Romeo and Juliet, forbidden to be together, yet violently in love. The passion was dangerous and that’s what drew me to him. And he said he loved me. He said he loved me so that he could get sex. It started before I wanted it to start and I would have had no way of knowing that his sexual fantasies were so deviant, that he would become addicted to sex to an extreme extent, that I would allow us to each have multiple sexual partners which were forced upon me by mental manipulation and minutely planned and persistently relentless brainwashing tactics.

I am sober now. I am sober from having been addicted to a violent passion which ultimately destroyed the entirety of me: my self-esteem, my self-worth, my view of myself, my mental stability, my connection with my family and healthy friends. He gave my vagina as a commodity to every single one of his friends except for his equally narcissistic gay friend. The only difference between his friends taking me, without moral regard to the fact that they were married and whose partners assumed they were in a monogamous relationship, was that his friends didn’t pay him to do with my body what they pleased. I went along with it and by then I was completely brainwashed. There’s no other way to put it. No sane person would ever let this happen to them unless under extreme circumstances.

Everything about my life was extreme. In fact, he was a daredevil flying fighter jets and often driving 100 miles per hour on a 65 mile-an-hour road limit or even on 35 mile per hour roads. I hated it and he knew that I hated it, but he was too self-centered and too narcissistic to care about how it affected me, because he kept on doing the things which I hated. And although it was obvious that I disliked those things, I mostly kept my mouth shut. I didn’t speak back. No, that’s not true. I was a normal, self-preserving human driven by the instinct for survival. Of course I talked back. Of course I said “no”. I said no in many ways: verbally and physically. I used to push him away and say “no” and “stop it” and “I don’t like it”. I used to clasp my hands over the naked entrance to my vagina to stop him from penetrating me with his violent hands. To no avail. He always won, and he wore me down with daily persistence over the period of years. I was with him because we were attached by the invisible, cultural and moral code of marriage, and I naively believed in the phrase “until death do us part” because my father had died when I was three and a half. I took the fact that we were married very seriously.

He peeled my hands away forcefully from the entrance of my vagina. He forced me to wear scant clothing which barely covered me, so that I would be vulnerable and sexually attractive to him, but mostly to others. He was addicted to watching other men take me. There was no sense of protection and everything about my life was reckless and unsafe. He adamantly denied me the use of condoms. He pimped me out to hundreds of men over the years and it is only to God’s grace that I do not have HIV. I do have HPV but my doctor told me that it is supposed to go away over time. I was shocked when I found out, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. No one wants to hear such news. I understand that HPV can cause cancer. I don’t want to develop cancer. I want to live and I want to become a marriage and family therapist and I want to help other people who have been victims of abuse, terror and neglect. Humans can be the most despicable of beings when they cause harm to others, to children of all people. They cause indelible suffering. But in helping, in becoming a therapist, I can be a part of the healing. My therapist pointed that out to me. Even though humans can be so horrible, there are others who have the power to cause positive change and to elicit healing. I want to not only inspire; I want to heal. I want to have the healing power that my therapist has passed on to me. I want to employ that power for my own personal gain, which is the feeling of pride, of having made a contribution, of feeling good for having helped another person.

I know I don’t have to become a therapist to do those things. I can let a pedestrian cross the road even if there is no crosswalk. I can let a car on the freeway into my lane before me. I can smile at a stranger in the grocery store thereby sharing with them that there is kindness and gentleness in the world. I can be a big sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I can love another woman’s child by being a dedicated friend and consistent positive presence in their lives. I can listen to a friend when she needs to be listened to. I can sit with silence and share compassion and be non-judgemental. I can make another person laugh. I can make daily human connections. There are so many ways that I can make a difference in the world. I choose to study to become a therapist because I believe from my own personal experience that it is the most effective way to enhance the quality of another person’s life on an emotional and spiritual level. One person can make a difference, and I want to be that person for many people. I care about myself and I love my life and I now have respect for myself. I have standards that I live up to. I want others to love their life as much as I love my own. I cannot force that to happen, but I can show them the way. I can guide them to self-actualization. I can be the enabler of positive change.

Change is difficult. To change one’s thinking takes years of training in therapy. It is challenging. There’s no other way to put it. It has been one of my greatest accomplishments to date. I know now that I can make things in my life happen. I have the confidence to be able to envision what I want, and to cause things in my life to go in that direction. I have the power to make my dreams come true. I have the power to respect myself. As my best friend, who is my sister from another mother, put it: self sacrifice is one of the greatest acts of self love. Knowing that has slowly changed my life.

When I spent five months studying for the GRE, four months into it, when I was really struggling with the maths quantitative portion in particular, she gave me this gift of insight. I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t want to. But the way to show your child your love is to make sacrifices. And she told me to be my own mother, a mother to myself, and to love me by making sacrifices for me. The emotional energy, the strenuous commitment, the time spent studying: that was and is one of the greatest acts of self love because it is getting me towards where I want to be. I will do anything it takes to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. It is a long road of study, practice and training ahead and I am not daunted by the looming challenge of these years upcoming years of struggle because I know they will get me to where I want to be. I am me, I know I can be fully me now, and I have nothing to be ashamed of in wanting to be the best me that I can muster.

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.  

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.

I bleed freely

Yes, I’m talking about my period. When it’s bright red like it’s supposed to be I feel as if everything is right with the world, my world. I feel free, because no one is inconvenienced by my menstruation. I have no sexual partner. I have no one around me with any expectations when it comes to my body. I get to own my body. And I get to make decisions. Am I going to wear a tampon or a pad or both as back up? Am I going to wear the extra long pad tonight so that when I’m lying to my side in bed the blood won’t ease it’s way up my butt crack and make its way onto my panties and possibly onto my bed sheets? Yes! These are the things people don’t like to talk about. But they are a part of everyday life and I am not afraid to talk about them just like I’m not afraid to talk about my mental illness.

You know they make all kinds of products for women’s menstruation? There are heavy absorption and light absorption products. There are pads with wings and extra thick pads that make you feel like you’re wearing a rag. Women used to use rags. Rags! And then they had to wash them after each use, hang dry them for reuse. Reusable cloths. This is where the phrase “on the rag” comes from. But we don’t remember those days, do we? A newer generation that has it easier.

I’m very lucky that I don’t get cramps. I just completely lucked out! And when my period doesn’t come for a month or two, I don’t worry because I think it is normal. Other people would worry a lot and head straight to the doctor. What’s wrong with me?! But even without the period talk I think that’s a question I used to unconsciously ask myself all the time. Or the belief that “there must be something wrong with me.”

Why is he upset with me? I must have done something wrong. He played on my guilt. He perfected his craft. He trained me, molded me, coached me, groomed me into doing what he wanted me to do. See, I could go on about this forever. It’s a part of my life and I haven’t talked about it enough, in general, and to enough people. But “people” don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to talk about sexual abuse, marital rape, mental illness, chronic depression, suicide attempts, ECT’s. “People” just want to live their lives and thanks to social media they come across some stories that they wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

I haven’t talked about it enough, so I’m now going to therapy twice a week. I haven’t talked about it enough so I’m going to find a sexual abuse survivors group to talk to. I haven’t talked about it enough and I want the world to know what I went through, but the world doesn’t want to hear it. They wouldn’t be able to handle it. I am tough shit, because I lived through it. I am a warrior because I live with the knowledge that it happened to me every day. My supportive network is full of champions because they treat me kindly and with compassion. I have something. I have enough. My story is out there and people will find it if they want to.

Own It.

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.

Reclaiming my sexuality

Last night I went to take a shower. Normal, everyday thing, right? Right. There are lots of mirrors in my home. A large, full-sized and wood-framed mirror in the living room, ceiling to floor mirrors on my three sliding closet doors, and a full-sized built-in mirror in the bathroom nook within my bedroom. I walked by that bathroom mirror across the sink in the nude as I do every other day. Sometimes I do stop to look at myself for a few minutes, mainly in self-hatred at the belly fat which isn’t flat – because I am now a fully-grown woman with curves, not sickly skinny with diets being forced upon me. I often look at other womans’ bellies at the gym and wonder how it is possible that their stomachs are relatively flat.

So I stood there. And then on impulse, I sat down on the soft bathroom floor mat in front of the mirror with my legs spread wide open. And I looked at myself. I looked at my breasts, my long, dark hair, my stomach, my vulva. Now that I’m thinking of dating someone I am wondering what they would think of my body. Because we are sexual beings, right? Sex is often part of an intimate partnership formed with another being. It’s an intimate act and it’s supposed to be beautiful and special and cherished. Not forced, not abusive, not scary. Not what I experienced for so many traumatic years. I am in control now.

My hands made their way down to my vulva, and I opened my labia and just stared. So, this is what my vagina looks like. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever in my lifetime properly taken a look at my vagina (well, the outer part is actually called the vulva, you cannot actually see the vagina because it’s inside). My vagina got used a lot for many years in sexual acts, but I’ve never really looked at it. I have never appreciated it. I have never loved it. Apparently the vulva and inner labia have a pinker colour than the rest of the body’s skin. I didn’t remember that fact and it was surprising to me. Is that where the pink comes from on the ribbon logo of the breast cancer walks? Probably not but a point worth considering.

I looked at the hair covering my private part. Hair everywhere. My abuser infantilized me on a regular basis and wanted me to be like a little girl, so he often made me trim, shave, or wax the entire thing. It was more pleasurable for him. Pleasure was completely out of the picture for me, but I obeyed as usual. I was a good girl and an obedient wife. Now that I have hair down there, I feel like a real woman. Women have hair. That’s just it. So do men. And sometimes traces of pubic hair end up on the bathroom floor and that’s okay too. I can clean it up.

I gave myself a haircut. It was kind of spontaneous, but also influenced by my newfound penchant for dating someone. I didn’t want the future person to have to deal with that big bush, so I grabbed my pink scissors from the kitchen and chopped off what I could. I was pleased with the results.

Soon after I started to touch myself. I rubbed my clitoris, lubricated with some spit, and then had the courage to put my finger inside of myself, just like I would do with a tampon. For the last four years I have been essentially asexual, and I can tell you, this act did not arouse me. It felt okay. After a very long ten minutes my body was creating some of its own lubrication. So I said, okay, fine. This was self-inflicted for the purpose of pleasure. My body did not betray me like it had so many times before, becoming wet because of sexual acts forced upon me. “See, you liked it,” my abuser would rationalize. He told me what I wanted. I was not allowed to have my own feelings or thoughts. Now, no one is telling me what to do, especially when it comes to my body.

I got bored and stopped but I continued to just stare. I looked at my vulva with the labia closed. I thought about the thousands of women on this planet who have to undergo FGM (female genital mutilation). I thought how lucky I am that I was not born into a culture which believes in FGM. The country doesn’t matter, because immigrants from those cultures still practise this act upon young girls in my own country. Essentially the young girl is told there will be a ceremony and a celebration. There is dancing and sometimes gifts. Then the older women hold the unsuspecting, naive, innocent little girl down pinned to the ground, undress her from the waist down, and then a man who is usually not a doctor begins to literally sever, to cut off the labia without anesthesia. If there is music, live or recorded, it becomes louder to cover the screams of the girl in pain. Once the labia are cut off and the vulva is bleeding, what is left of the skin gets sewn together, leaving a small hole for pee and a period to come out. The skin fuses together. Sometimes a full circumcision is performed and the clitoris is also cut out. Then, in order to have sex when these women come of age, the skin rips when the penis is inserted because the hole is too small. When the woman has to have a child, the skin which has been fused together has to be cut in order for the baby to fit through the vagina, and then the woman has her vulva sewn up again. It’s a medical process which has no medical benefit and is often not performed by a medical practitioner. Don’t quote me on any of this. I am not an expert. This is what I know from what I have read.

So, I have an uncircumcised vagina / vulva. No one has seen it for four years, except for one doctor and a man with whom I did not have sex. I just sat there on the bathroom floor for two hours. Two hours looking at my body. I sat cross-legged. I sat in the lotus position with my feet crossed upon my knees. I sat there curled up, hugging my legs to my chest, naked. I thought about a lot of things. The time that my vulva and I spent together was very relaxed, but my mind was racing, not from anxiety, but from memories and other thoughts. In the end, I got up and showered for five minutes, changed into pajamas and sat on the couch with my wet hair draped over my shoulders. I felt mentally really exhausted. But I believe I had made a very personal accomplishment. I had achieved something, which contributed to my inner healing. I know that one day I will be able to have sex again, and that it will be of my volition, my choice, and self-directed. I want it to be beautiful. That’s how sex is supposed to be.