We’ve reached part three of my Sexual Assault Awareness Month series. In the previous two posts (The Attack, The Aftermath) I discussed the details of the attack, and the physical and emotional aftermath I endured, leading up to this.
When I started my journey to recovery two years ago, the absolute last thing on my mind was a long past relationship and sexual assault. I was more concerned with selfish motives of saving my marriage, and getting my emotions under control as I began the new chapter in my life of motherhood. My daughter had just turned seven months old, my husband and I had just purchased our first home, and there was a huge well of transition both in adapting to having a child, and moving into our new environment.
As those with children of their own can attest, the stress and sleep deprivation that comes with an infant is quite near the threshold of human tolerance. I was an emotional basket case, snapping at my husband more often than not, and demanding things be done per my very specific instructions in an attempt to regain some control over my surroundings and situation. We fought frequently, and there was a distinguishable distance growing between us, which triggered my yet to be diagnosed abandonment issues and turned up the stress dial several more notches. It was then that the self doubt started.
I began to question everything I had done/felt/endured during the course of my life as an independent adult. I had been so consumed with hatred toward myself for all of the mistakes I had made, I was quite literally insane, lost in dissociation trying to keep myself together. So many choices I had made were the product of an unhealthy mind. I was scared, both filled with regret and guilt. What if I had only married my husband out of spite? What if my haste to have a child was inspired by the same reason? What if everything I had tried to do to be successful and remain happy despite my emotional turmoil was only a ruse? Had I damaged myself more trying to forget the events of the past as opposed to embracing them?
So I began the arduous task of writing everything down from moving out into my first apartment, up until the current events in my life as I remembered it. Once I started recording everything the intrusive thoughts began to subside, everything seemed to fall into place, but the self doubt went into complete over drive. So much so that I began to look into mental health diagnoses finally coming to the realization that I couldn’t be a healthy neurotypical person and enduring such a constantly changing wave of thoughts and emotions. That is when I stumbled on the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was like reading about the inside of my mind for the first time in my life.
I was both intensely relieved, and petrified at the same time. I fit all of the symptoms, and children from abusive pasts were in the risk category, but what else in my life had been traumatic? Because I had survived each and every event, they did not occur to me as trauma. I felt that maybe I was wrong, and that maybe what I had wasn’t exactly PTSD but mimicked the symptoms. The only way I was going to be able to find out was to make an appointment with a therapist and get a professional opinion, and complete diagnosis. That is precisely what I did. I sent out several apprehensive emails to several different local practices over the course of the next few weeks. I was beginning to get discouraged as again and again I was turned away or ignored all together, until finally I got a positive reply and scheduled an appointment. I remember those nerve wrecking few weeks between the initial reply, taking the time to fill out my assessments, and personal history forms.
The humility and associated anxiety it took to open up to some one completely face to face without the safety of my blog and computer screen almost did me in. I think if I had to wait any longer before arriving at the office I would have suffered a stress related aneurism. The first appointment was encouraging. I was finally able to give a name to what had plagued me for most of my life. If I could give it a name, I could find a treatment. I didn’t have to be a slave to my flashbacks and intrusive thoughts any longer. I continued my course of therapy, putting to bed most of the issues from my past. I kept blogging my progress at first excited to share my growth with the world, but soon it turned into a chore and mentally taxing more than helpful. I deactivated my blog for close to a year at the height of my emotional recovery.
Then, as I reached a turning point, and began to regain my strength and finally achieve a sense of stability the most recent turmoil in my life finally satisfied, other things began to rise to the surface. Things that I had long forgotten. With the help of my therapist I was able to navigate these “new” memories and emotions successfully. It was in this time that the memory of my assault rose to the surface. I was doing really well, my PTSD in clinical remission when suddenly I began to have nightmares.
Violent flash backs of this occurrence between me and a man whom had been so influential and important in my life. None of it made sense. The panic attacks associated with it were some of the worst I had ever endured/experienced. I was so confused, so conflicted, and so blindsided especially in the midst of my recovery. I felt like I had failed somewhere, that I was somehow doomed to live in a constant loop of recurrence, and that these memories couldn’t possibly be real. Surely I had to be exaggerating somehow. Somewhere.
After discussing it with my therapist and undergoing some regression, it was determined that my memories were in fact genuine. I had been violently raped and only now was I in a healthy enough emotional state to address it. Working through it with my therapist, decoding things that had been buried, popping up only in fleeting moments of my subconscious was exhausting. My emotions covered every end of the spectrum from elation that I was finally able to break free of the shackles of dissociation, to deep rooted anger at this man for taking advantage of me in such a vulnerable part of my life. That anger is the emotion that originally spurred me forward in the decision to relaunch my blog and reclaim my voice. No longer was I going to be silenced by the mask of dissociation, no longer was I going to give my respect and loyalty to some one who deserved less from me. I was out for blood.
But as I began to write, even in anger, I realized that I couldn’t do that to him. I couldn’t sit here and publicly humiliate him, or share my experience out of malicious intent. I hesitated, I wavered, I reigned myself back in. The likely hood that he will ever see these words is minimal at best. We haven’t had any recent contact, nor do I plan to have any contact with him ever again, and yet… it was there. Something that kept me from letting all of my explosive rage out onto the page. I realized that while my anger was justified, I couldn’t dehumanize him, expose him, or capitalize on our unfortunate encounter. If I was going to share the details of what happened between us it was going to be for a different reason. It couldn’t be out of anger or hatred. So I put everything away. Closed the draft file on my hard drive, and removed it from my desktop. My story was important, but I wasn’t going to use it as a weapon.