Some peace of mind

In a few days it will already be September. How do I feel about that? Good, I guess. I mean, I’ve made it this far. What’s to stop me from going further on with my life? I am no longer suicidal and although depression still gets me down, I am able to function during the week. The last time I felt really suicidal was two months ago, and two months of not feeling like wanting to kill myself is a huge deal for me. That was also triggered by my talk to the DDA. The Victims Compensation Program for the state denied my application because too much time has passed since the last time I was abused, but the victim advocate at the courthouse is helping me to petition. It would be nice to get some help.

I’m going on my first date from Match.com this week. He wanted to go for “drinks” but I insisted on meeting at a coffee shop and he conceded, which was a personal victory for me. I don’t want to drink alcohol with someone I don’t know. That just spells danger. Going to dinner is of course more of a commitment than drinks or a coffee, and that is for later if it goes that far. A glass of wine with dinner is different than just going to a bar. I really want to stay away from alcohol and any other bad influences. The nice thing though, is that this man I’m going to see is exactly the same age as me. I want to be with more people around my age. I’m so used to being with older people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve always gravitated to a generation beyond my own. Even as a child, my brother and I mostly spent time with adults rather than other children. It’s just how things were. There were other children in our lives too, but moving around to different countries made it difficult to really relate.

I should definitely be a psychologist if I can go from the beginning of a paragraph talking about a contemporary issue and within that same paragraph tie it back to my childhood. It’s more of a personal joke. The truth is, I do so desperately want to work in the field of psychology, but I just cannot get myself to study for this entrance exam. I don’t have the attention span of more than 20 minutes, and then I wander off in my mind elsewhere or distract with social media for hours, just to not look at my study books.

This weekend, in lieu of studying, I went to bed at 7:00 in the evening on Friday and finally hauled myself out of bed a whopping 25 hours later at 8:00 Saturday night. I stayed up until midnight distracting myself with social media, and then went to bed again. I was, however, able to find the courage to face my day today and wake up, make myself coffee, take my morning medication and supplement. I started taking SAM-e and I have no idea if it’s helping but it’s ‘au naturale’ and I figure I’ll just keep taking it because it’s supposed to help.

I love my four-day periods. This month mine came a week earlier than expected. I only know because I track it on an app called P-Tracker, which tells me how many days are left until my next one. I find my period to be just an inconvenience and now that I am able to use tampons again, it just makes it so much more convenient and less messy.

I’m finally going to see a general health practitioner after four years of not seeing one. I’ve been to specialist doctors but haven’t gotten my annual health checkup. Who massages their own breasts every week checking for lumps or cancerous growths? I certainly don’t. Overall my body is rather healthy. I’m at a healthy weight. I eat my fruits but not vegetables. I take supplements and a multivitamin. My mum wanted me to see a doctor because of this cough that I perpetually have which sounds hoarse. I didn’t think of it as a big deal.

My theatre friend took me out for coffee today in between rehearsals. I actually spent half an hour in the sun, and it felt lovely. It’s highly unusual for me to spend time in the sun, ever, these days. I still have a t-shirt sleeve tan from the one hour afternoon walk I took with my mum last month. My life really isn’t that bad any more. Nothing dramatic is going on. No more suicide threats, self harm episodes, and crying spells are at an all time low this week compared to the last few weeks. As my therapist said, emotions don’t always feel good. Emotions are also there to inform us, and they come and go. So if it’s uncomfortable, I can count on that feeling dissipating after a while. Life doesn’t have to be so dramatic.

My life is so undramatic, that I still haven’t found energy to participate in hobbies. I don’t go out, almost never. I like to stay home at sit on my couch and do nothing. Evenings and weekends. It’s nice to be out but it’s nice to be home. How do I explain to a prospective dating candidate that I just don’t do anything? I don’t. I don’t go hiking, I don’t go for runs or for a swim or play volleyball. I just go out for coffee and sit and talk and people watch. Now, that isn’t such a bad hobby, is it?

I almost forgot to mention! I entered this poetry contest online! I found out about it while I was surfing the Internet and the deadline was August 30, so I put together a document of 95 pages of poetry (the maximum allowed was 98 pages) and submitted it along with paying a reading fee. It was for a publishing company that only publishes works written by women. I have over 100 unpublished poems that I wrote over a period of three years, and then spent six months to a year typing them up to my Google Docs. There they wait, hoping to one day be published when I have the time and energy to do it. It’s a part of my healing journey. I even performed one of my poems at an open mic night earlier this year and it was tantalizingly fun. I took myself out of my comfort zone and just did it with a friend one night. I was surprised I was able to memorize the thing in less than a week – I didn’t think I had that in me. That capability. I’m not a part of that underground, tightly-knit community of budding poet-artists in town, but I could be. I could be if I wanted to be. There are just other places I would rather focus my energy right now, such as this blog. This blog has become very important to me. I don’t know how to get more people to read my writing, but I wish more did. I want my story and my journey to be known. And I want it to help those who can relate.

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A longer letter to my therapist than I had planned…

I couldn’t resist the temptation of writing to you while I enjoy my sweetened Italian coffee. Italian beans and an Italian coffee maker. It’s a treat I rarely get to enjoy because of my sleeping habits, since I know I shouldn’t have strong coffee too late in a day.

In my morning daydreams we are friends instead of therapist and patient and that means I can call you any time. I call you and you pick up and we say hello. I wish you a happy Sunday. I ask you what you’ll be doing today and you ask me the same. I tell you how good my warm coffee tastes and ask you if you’ve had your morning coffee yet. I tell you that I’m going to a company social event this afternoon where about 50 financial advisors from all over the country are meeting at a brewery as a precursor to their three-day conference. My co-worker who is also my financial advisor is picking me up so that I can have a beer and not have to drive. I assume his wife doesn’t mind because it’s business and we have a purely professional relationship. Whereas another financial advisor I work for who is much older when I suggested he take me out for a drink said his wife would have a fit. It’s interesting how the cultures of different generations are, but also that is telling of the person’s relationship with their spouse.

Okay, so that’s all true it’s not a part of my day dream. You listen and respond attentively to my story. It’s just like in our sessions except it’s over the phone for a ten minute phone call, not 50 minutes. Then I could imagine other conversation happening but eventually I say bye and we hang up the phone. I didn’t have to have a reason to call you. I called you just because I felt like it. And I was able to connect with you which feeds my soul and gives me happiness and energy for the day.

I think that’s a very nice dream to imagine. I actually talk to you all the time. When I’m not actually writing you an email I’m sometimes thinking about what I would say to you even if I don’t get around to writing it.

I feel at peace right now. I decided to get out of bed. Yesterday I decided to not get out of bed and I spent the entire day, yes, all of it day and night, in bed in the dark mostly sleeping. For the few hours during which I was awake and just laying there I allowed myself to think about a lot of things. I thought about how much I used to hurt emotionally, overwhelmingly, and how I had difficulty expressing that to you during our sessions. And how I no longer hurt. The severe emotional pain lasted many years. I think it was always there, from the moment the abuse started, but I kept it repressed and tried to live that dual life of the perfect wife and the sexually abused prostitute and how I kept those identities separate and how much it killed me inside until the pain bubbled up to the surface and I could no longer pretend I wasn’t in pain and that I needed it to stop.

I think of all the hospital stays and the time I was kept in a mental ER holding place near my mom’s house two Decembers ago and how I called you from the patient phone and you picked up because you didn’t know who it was and I told you as I have in the past that they were holding me there against my will. I don’t remember what you said, it was just grounding amid the rest of the chaos of the night to be able to hear your voice and connect with you.

I remember the times I couldn’t utter a single word sitting across from you on the couch and I would motion for you to give me a pen and paper and all I could write was, I hurt. I hurt. The pain was insurmountable.

I remember how I used to be scared of going out at night, or sometimes out of my apartment at all, even during the day. I remember how you were always kind and understanding with me but that you placed boundaries like not supporting me when I was banging my head against the hard wall. You said you don’t support it, that it’s not okay, that this is a place for healing not hurting oneself and you walked out of the room.

I know that every session for a long while I would tell you I wanted to kill myself and you told me that all of us must eventually die, that it’s inevitable, and that I had promised to write you a handwritten letter one day when I am completely healed, perhaps when I have children of my own. Who knows when that will be. I have so many decades ahead of me.

I know when I first started seeing you I didn’t tell you much of anything about what I didn’t even consider to be an abusive relationship and we mostly talked about my anger toward my mother.

You have always been there for me. It took going to several therapists in order to find you by chance. But it cannot have been an accident that we met. Because, maybe, it was meant to happen. While I was laying in bed yesterday evening, my feet playing with each other back and forth like I usually do, I was thinking how things could have been different. I could have not moved in with my boyfriend before the end of college. I would have stayed in Davis and gone to graduate school and I would now be teaching Italian at a high school, and I would love my students and my job. I would be married with young children and I would have reconciled sooner in life with my mom because she would have been a grandma and I would have actually needed her. I would have let go of my anger. I would barely sleep because of little children crying at night and I would have not fallen into a deep depression and I would only be taking vitamin supplements instead of a cocktail of psychotropic medications. I might know nothing of the world of therapy, or I would have found another therapist like the one I had on campus when I was in college, but I certainly wouldn’t aspire to do what you do because I would have been happy with what I was doing. Maybe I would have worked in marketing at a company using my creative side and like one of my high school friends I would already be at the mature level of management, because I would have grown professionally.

None of that did happen. But it could have if things had been different. If I had had less anger with my mom and not felt the need to run away from one controlling person to another. Because we repeat patterns. I simulated that which was the only thing I knew. If my dad had not died I would have had a strong male role model in my life and not felt the need to gravitate to a man so strongly and needily at such a young age. If my dad had not been born with a hole in his heart he wouldn’t have developed such a charming personality to compensate for his inability to keep up physically and my mom wouldn’t have been charmed by him and fallen in love and then my brother and I wouldn’t have been born. Had he grown up in England instead of in South Africa during apartheid he wouldn’t have felt the need to leave and he never would have lived in Switzerland and have come to America. Had he been born in a later era surgery on his heart would have been commonplace and his mother wouldn’t have had to fight so hard to keep his weak body alive. Had my mom’s father stayed in India I would be Indian and speak Hindi fluently and not know anything about cultures around the world.

Had you remained a farmer I would have never met you. Had you not moved to this city and developed your practice I would have never met you. Had you not worked with little Tina in that early learning environment you may not have pursued the field of psychology and marriage and family therapy. Had you not joined the group practice I might never have found you.

You already know you mean so much to me. You help me to stay balanced and to live my life. You have taught me about the power of emotions. You have helped me through what will always be the darkest period of my life. Nothing in my life will ever be that hard. You have helped me to realize that I am strong and that the fact that I exist makes a difference in this world and that making a difference can be as little or big as giving a fellow human being a smile. You have helped me increase my self worth so that I know I am important not only to you but to a lot of people, that I am valued and that I have the ability to create and direct my own life and that I don’t need others to tell me what to do. Through you I have grown up, matured, from a girl into a woman. I am me and I am glad for it. Thank you for helping me.

Now my coffee is long gone and it’s an hour and a half later and I feel good about myself because I expressed myself emotionally through words and I can carry this with me throughout the day, still imagining what I’d say to you about my day, but also becoming immersed in my day to where I don’t actually think of you at all.

Triumphantly I Cry

I walked into my therapy session today feeling content and mildly happy. I left feeling very content and definitely happy. In between coming and going there were tears and emotions felt. The tears were from sadness. That elusive word “trigger” came up again today. It’s a tricky word for me because I constantly need the reminder that I actually have “triggers”. As a concept, it just hasn’t registered in my mind yet. I know what my extreme triggers are, and how to stay away from them, such as watching self harm videos on YouTube, but the subtle ones are difficult to catch.

We started talking about my day. I told my therapist that my bosses at work are putting pressure on me for a project I’ve been neglecting. That project encompasses about 20 boxes of client files, actual physical, non-digital paperwork, and it is my task to scan in all of the paperwork so that we can become paperless. Among my other daily duties. This is a collection of over a decade of client files. I’m allowed to start by scanning five files a day. That is certainly doable. My therapist explained to me that this is what we do, we make it a bigger project in our minds, we tell ourselves it’s overwhelming or “too much” or “I just don’t want to do it”. But the task itself is not difficult. It is the stories we tell ourselves.

We proceeded to go through the steps of what it will take to scan this mountain of files. You start with one file. You pull it from the filing cabinet. Open it up. Start removing staples and binding. Start scanning. The scanner is of great quality and scans both front and back at once. I save the PDF file of the scanned document. I repeat this process. Then I upload the digital documents to the client file, collect the paperwork, place it in the pile of documents to be shredded. We have a shredding service which comes once a week for pickup.

See? It’s not that difficult! It’s like washing the dishes. My therapist uses this example often. You start washing the dishes. Then you think, “why isn’t he doing the dishes? He’s just sitting there watching TV. Why doesn’t he do the dishes?” Then you build up resentment and all the while you could have just been washing the dishes without the burden of these stories.

Where did my therapy session progress to next? Oh, yes, we talked about the weekend. I actually did something for the Fourth of July. I got out of my house and spent time with people I value. It wasn’t difficult being outside of my house. I enjoyed my time. I did not feel stressed. I got to do everything at a relaxed pace, in my own time. There were no expectations of me from anyone. Again we went through the steps. I open my front door. I close it. I turn the key and lock it. I walk to my car. I open my door, climb in, put my foot on the brake. I start the car. When you break the action down into small steps, not one of those steps is actually difficult. Why, then, is it difficult for me to get myself out of bed on the weekends? It’s not difficult, he says. “Is it because I don’t think I deserve to be out enjoying my weekend, or that I think I am not worthy?” I ask. “No, I don’t think it’s that,” my therapist replies. “I think it is because you don’t give yourself permission,” he continues. “You haven’t had enough practice yet.”

So I need to continue practising being kind and gentle to myself. And slowly allowing myself to do things on the weekend, getting out of my apartment, going for that walk by myself. I have thus far relied on external motivators, invitations out from other people, and the motivation has not come from within. This needs to change. It won’t change overnight.

“In your marriage you weren’t permitted to do the things you wanted to do.” You weren’t allowed to be yourself. My trigger point. My lower lip starts to quiver and I look away to the side. My brow furrows. I start taking shorter breaths. Before I know it my face is turning a shade of red, and the first tear trickles down my cheek. Followed by another. And then it’s difficult to hold a straight face any longer and my lips turn downward. I start to sob and little noises escape from my vocal chords. I am crying. My therapist speaks soothing words to me. He allows silence to let me cry. He always asks when this happens, “do you know what is happening?” It takes me a while to process that he asked me a question, and then more time to be able to find words to attach to this process. “You talked about my past,” I whisper. “Yes, and I triggered you when I spoke about it.” He states gently. “You feel sad?” “Yes.” I sob. “It was sad, what happened to you,” he emphasizes, “but it is no longer happening to you. These are just the memories.” He rephrases that same last remark. These are just the memories and it is no longer happening. I feel more reassured, and I allow myself to cry some more while he waits for me to do what I need to do. I wipe my tears with the back of my hands. My cheeks are wet and my lips taste salty. I take a tissue from the Kleenex box and hold it in my hand. I stare at it for a while. Then I wipe my lips, and then my cheek, and one eye, and then the other. I crumple up the used tissue and hold my fist closed over the ball of tissue. I am ready to move on.

I am no longer experiencing trauma. It has been a long time since I experienced those things, the oppression, the suppression of who I really was. At times the memories come back, usually prompted by a trigger. “I have a red scratch on my arm. I ran a knife on my skin. I wanted to see how sharp it was, the knives my roommate got. It didn’t hurt.” I tell him. He doesn’t say comment on this revelation because he knows it’s not necessary for him to say anything. I know I must not do it again, he knows I keep my promises to not harm myself, and I know it wasn’t a healthy thing to do. It was a curiosity, and I experienced it, and it’s over. It’s important to remember that the memories are memories, and that nothing bad is happening to me right now, in this moment or the last. I am safe and okay and I am allowed to be happy. I will practise giving myself permission.

A Happy Fourth

I saw fireworks tonight. It was actually wonderful. Once I managed to get myself out of bed at noon, I engaged with life. I made two coffees in an unhurried fashion. I did two loads of laundry in the middle of the day instead of late at night at the last minute (no, I haven’t put it away yet, it’s just in a big, clean pile!), and then I went over to my friends’ house to spend the fourth of July with her other friends, their children, her fiance. It was just so lovely. I actively engaged in my life. Having two days of hibernation and difficult days this weekend were worth it, because today made my whole weekend and being alive still, just worth it. I feel loved and these friends are my chosen family. My friend is teaching me first hand how to be a mom just by mothering her own child. She has healthy boundaries and sets limits and negotiates with her child and honours him at the same time. There is love in the family.

I know I’ve been focusing a lot on my blog lately. That’s because I’ve been through some difficult things in the past few weeks, the past months, heck, the past years, and writing about it helps me to bring some equilibrium to the equation. If I write, then I know it’s real, and I haven’t imagined it, and I get to validate the experience that I am having, unlike in my past when I wasn’t valued as a human being, but as an object, and my needs and desires and feelings just meant nothing. I had learned that I was worth nothing. My friends’ fiance told me today candidly that I am beautiful, and I took it as such a compliment, coming from him, because he has no interest in me other than friendship. I don’t often get complimented in that way. I have a pink sticky note on my mirror in the bathroom that says I am worthy and I am beautiful and that every day I live is an accomplishment. I need it there because I forget those things all the time.

On my 40 minute drive home all I was thinking about was my therapist and how I get to see him in two days. I can’t wait to see him. I need to tell him about my experience this weekend, every part of it. He is witness to my life, and I need him and want him in my life. I’m sure I could do without him, right? But my life is so much richer because of him. He makes me think about things from a different perspective, and he reminds me of the things that are important.

Tomorrow will be no surprise. I don’t have any variation in my days and weeks. I know what to expect. Sometimes this is a blessing, and sometimes I want more. I just have to take things day by day, week by week, and see what I can take on and manage. I do know though, that if I want change to happen, I have the ability to make it happen. I have a proven history of that in my short past of four years of freedom. I can do this.

Another Day of Self Care

While skimming through some of my older blogs I began to feel overwhelmed, of which feeling was then replaced with a mute kind of inner strength. I have finally found my voice, after all of those years of not having one. This is me. I am allowed to be me. I can say what I want and it’s okay to feel up or down without having to put a mask on. It’s not “fake” to smile at co-workers when I’m not feeling good. It’s merely a social courtesy, and a gift to the passer-by, because if you smile at them you are giving them a sort of positive, momentary human interaction. The ones that bother me are those two people at the office who say, “Hi, how are you?” They ask every time how I am and it’s pretty obvious they just want me to say “fine” so I’ve been ignoring the last part of the sentence and just saying “Hi” back. They don’t seem to notice the difference.

I am sitting on my usual spot on my couch, upright supported by a pillow behind my back, my cozy white blanket over my cross-legged lap and a brewed chai tea to my right which is no longer hot. (I hate water so I drink tea instead). My phone isn’t blowing up, but occasionally there will be a buzz, and it’s usually my cousin who posts on Facebook 12 times a day, nothing directed at me specifically, so I don’t read those messages. My roommate has been gone all weekend, but we rarely see each other anyway. I quickly did the dishes in the sink so she will find it clean when she gets home. Her life-sized teddy bear sits lazily on top of the small, white bench we never use. It is still light outside although it feels dark to me. That’s the cloud over my mind. I have this habit of rubbing my skin with my fingers to find dirt, because I’ve often felt as if I’m dirty. It started years ago. I’ll rub the skin on my upper chest until it gets red and I’ve managed to scrape off a minuscule part of dirt combined with dead skin cells. I’ve read somewhere that this is a form of self-harm like self-scratching to an unusual extent, which I have done before too. I just see it as a formed habit and I only do it when no one is looking. Like picking my nose.

I’m not sure what to do with myself for the next three hours before bedtime. I do have to shower, which as usual, I am not looking forward to. Tuesday is almost here. I needn’t ready because I already have sent to the DA’s office my 20-page written statement, which encompasses most of the horror story I lived through. I was abused, raped, tortured, manipulated, forced to drink, coerced, bound, kept, owned, encouraged to do awful things, received praise for doing those awful things, pimped out, prostituted, used, undignified, hurt, infantilised, objectified, put down, isolated, ostracised, stigmatized, hated, pressured, constrained, changed, ignored. I was all of those things and more. Those things defined me at the time, yet are now a part of an increasingly distant past, though the past is so real and often encroaches on my present healing. It is important for me to repeat to myself the truths of my story including, “I was raped” because it validates my past, which is a part of me. I’ve been repeating that one a lot lately, kind of like an unhealthy but necessary mantra.

I’m not feeling positive, but also not negative, but also definitely not neutral. I’m on both ends of the spectrum. I know that going into the interview on Tuesday will feel surreal and scary. I know that I will be mentally exhausted afterwards. I know that I have scheduled to meet with a friend afterwards to decompress and distract my mind of the difficult undertaking.

I didn’t go to the adult birthday party last night. Instead, I went to bed super early and stayed in bed for the next 18 hours. Pretty typical for my weekends. I would rather be in bed than be alive sometimes. I had some really vivid dreams, although I do not remember the content of them, just that at times my ex-husband was there and at other times my brother was present. I do remember dreaming that my ex touched my bottom with his hand and I smacked him hard. What I really did was reach out, extend my arm, and collide into the wooden frame of my bed. The pain on my wrist woke me up momentarily. I’m finally fighting back! Even in my dreams!! That’s great. Good for you. Good job. Kudos. You are strong. You can do this. You’ve got it. You’re good. You’re amazing. I’m so proud of you. I am in awe at what you’ve been through. Talking to myself in this way helps.

I ate half a bag of cookies for dinner. Earlier I ate cereal and soy milk for lunch. At some point I might microwave something a little more substantial, or not. It’s really up to me. I can do what I want in terms of self care. I am autonomous. Thank the Lord I did not choose to become institutionalized for my mental illness. My psychiatrist at the hospital, after my round of ECTs, gave me that choice. It would have set me back in my healing process. Or it could have helped me. But I think it would have taken me many more years to get back on my feet. I wouldn’t have the good job that I have now. At work, they have no idea what I’ve been through and what I’m going through, and it’s better that way. One day, though, I want to tell the world my story. This blog is a first step. And I’ll be known by my pen name. I want other abuse survivors to hear my story so that they know they are not alone.

Self Worth

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.

My Vagina

I have been thinking a lot lately about my vagina and the abuse that it, that I suffered. It is not a separate entity, it is a part of me, and yet I forget that because for so long I was objectified like a piece of meat. My “pussy”, as my abuser called it, was a separate thing. It had it’s own mind. Even if I didn’t want to have sex, my vagina did want it. He used the physical reaction as his justification. Women become naturally lubricated if they are stimulated, and also at random times throughout the monthly cycle. Men, even boys, on the other hand, if they get excited or stimulated they get an erection. It doesn’t always mean that the person wants to have sex. In my case, I didn’t. My ex-husband always initiated sex. On a weekly basis. I often said “no”, both verbally and physically, and somehow we would end up having sex anyway. Over time, this eroded my confidence, my self worth, and my sense of being. I doubted myself. I learned that my desires and opinions didn’t matter. But I didn’t realize that it was rape.

If a woman says no, and the man proceeds to have sex with her anyway, that is considered rape. But I always had this glamorized tragedy in my mind, that the woman gets drugged with a date rape drug and then finds herself waking up in a dark alleyway or in a dumpster left for dead. He never beat me. He never held a gun to my head. But the psychological hold that he had on me was intense and all-consuming.

People don’t seem to understand this. “You were a consenting adult because you were over the age of 18.” Yes, but I was trained from an even younger age to have sex with him. It was called statutory rape, for a year and a half prior to becoming of age. And then it just continued. I thought that in order to receive his love and affection, I had to have sex with him whenever he wanted it. I could have been just fine without it.

“You could have left.” But I couldn’t leave. I’ve been told that there is a term for this, the Stockholm Syndrome. A victim becomes emotionally attached to their abuser, and they can’t imagine a life without him, so they continue to choose abuse over choosing to leave. The psychological hold he had on me was just as if he had tied me up and kept me under lock and key in a basement. Only, instead, he dressed me up in sexually provocative clothing because, he liked the attention? Why did he like it? What is wrong with him? The answer is, so many things.

Now my vagina is mine, and I can do with it whatever I want. For the last four years I wasn’t able to use tampons when on my period because I didn’t want anything, absolutely nothing, to go inside of me. Anything of the sort reminded me of being raped and tortured with sex. Now, for the first time, I am finally able to use tampons again. It gives me a feeling of total freedom. It’s as if I’m living a whole new life.

But there are the memories. I can’t stop the memories of what happened to me. I will be speaking with a district attorney in one week about my case of abuse, and then it will be in the hands of the court to decide if it is a viable case to bring to trial. I keep hearing this, that they have to be able to convince a jury of 12 citizens “beyond reasonable doubt”. I have no idea how that’s going to happen because I have only my word against his. There is barely any proof, save a handful of photographs, some old emails and the log in to an old Craigslist account which he used to solicit sex. I hope that’s enough. I’m finally strong enough to tell my story to someone official, and then it’s out of my hands. The sexual abuse falls under the category of domestic violence, for which the punishment, if convicted, is pretty minimal with up to four years in jail. The case of rape is entirely separate. And then there was the child pornography that he was into which is a thing of its own and gets handled by the Feds.

I wrote out a whole outline of my abuse story. Just the outline is five pages long, with bullet points. This happened to me in this year. That happened to me then. It’s just a general overview but it covers almost everything I would want to share. The problem is, I only have up to three hours to present my case, and I’m sure I will need more time than that. And the sheriff and the DA will have their own questions, so following my outline as planned probably isn’t going to work. I’m grateful for this opportunity, that they are willing to reconsider my case. Two years ago when I first spoke with the DA office I was too suicidal and unwilling therefore to cooperate. Now that I’m not really (just a bit) suicidal, I am much stronger and feel that I can handle this. It will make me feel like I want to kill myself but I am strong enough now.

My vagina is mine. I can’t say it enough.

At Peace

I am sitting with my legs crossed, Indian style, with my back supported by my sturdy couch. I stubbed my toe earlier and it hurts a little but I don’t mind. I have a white blanket on my lap, and my frail yet faithful old computer laptop without a battery, plugged in, sits on top of that blanket. My shoulders are stooped and relaxed. I ate brie cheese and crackers and then a whole baked sweet potato. My stomach is not wanting for more. The house is completely quiet save the faint murmur of a television set coming through the wall of my neighbours’ abode. I even completed errands after work: I went grocery shopping, stopped by the ATM, and finally picked up my next month’s supply of medications. Therefore I also feel accomplished.

I have a helper. He helps me in every way. I have known him for almost two years but we have never spoken on the phone. And there is a three hour difference in our time zones. Whenever I feel anything, whether it’s lonely or sad or upset or angry, I send him a text message. We talk almost every day. He is absolutely wise and I have no idea where he gets his wisdom from. He always knows the right thing to say to help me. He offers encouragement, emotional support, even crisis management when I am about to do something stupid. He is always there for me.

Most recently I was angry with my helper. I was angry that he wouldn’t let me harm myself by not eating. I was angry with my therapist and not eating was supposed to be my way of asserting my own will and fighting the invisible battle in my mind. My helper told me I am intelligent and that I should see that my therapist cares about me, that others care about me, and that everyone I know wants to see me happy. That’s all they want for me!

He helped me to see that not eating was a very bad idea and it’s because of him that I am eating properly again, and I am so glad for it. Every day feels normal, not exhausting, not anxiety-provoking. I am able to get my work done and when I come home I conclude my day with whatever it is that I do: cook or microwave, eat, take vitamins and pills, change into pajamas.

I am terrified of someone being angry or upset with me. It turns my whole world upside down and to be honest, I kind of panic. After 32 years I still haven’t quite figured out how to handle it. Was that because I grew up in a household where I was yelled at a lot? I know that felt awful. In eight months at the job I’ve had two reprimands from my boss and each one was agonizing, with shame and guilt ensuing. I thought my helper was angry or frustrated with me. I thought he might stop talking to me for a while, and I so depend on him right now as a daily support. He told me that he will always be there for me. He may not agree with some things that I choose to do, but he will never stop supporting me. It was the best feeling ever, to hear and read those words. He will never leave me. The opposite of my worst fear.

My therapist also has said he will never leave me. But I recently broke my old promise that I made to him years ago, that I would not harm myself intentionally, and that if I needed more help I would go to a hospital to be evaluated for inpatient. The goal is to keep me safe. Since I broke that promise, I can’t expect him to keep his promise of always being there for me. I’m worried that at some point in the future he might leave me too.

I am very anxious to see my therapist. I need to know if he is angry with me, or frustrated with me. That does not feel good, the not knowing. It’s the worst. I need him to tell me that he is not angry with me and that he wants to see me get better. I have to remember that he does care, and he needed to do his part last time I saw him by being stern and unmoving with me. He would not budge on the issue of self harm and took it very seriously. At the time I wasn’t coping well with his reaction and I, in turn, responded not in a mature fashion.

It’s so good to know that someone cares, and I will go to bed peacefully tonight knowing I have a true connection with another human being. It is sincere and supportive and everlasting. That connection will never go away.

I will see my psychiatrist next week and he will likely increase another one of my medications. He has already discussed the possibility with me. He takes my wellness very seriously and my psychiatric well-being is actually in his hands. He is responsible for helping to alter my brain chemistry to affect change. I am only responsible for taking what he orders for me as prescribed, morning and night.

I have people rooting for me. I have a network of people that I know, who know of my past struggles, who have seen my improvement in quality of life and mental health, and who want me to continue on this path toward complete wellness. I want wellness to be my normal state of being in this world. I know I can do this. I am doing this. I am so, so worthy of a life worth living.