Thursday, July 9, 2015

I'm Still A Victim

It has been a long day after a long week.

I hit the ground running Monday morning after three days packed full of 4th of July festivities, and I haven't stopped since. 

Tonight when the kids were finally sleeping hard in their beds, I found myself rummaging through the fridge — not really hungry but at the same time starving — probably more just looking for something to entertain me. I ended up making a bag of microwave popcorn that a babysitter had left on my counter, pouring myself a glass of cheap wine, and almost breaking my neck falling off a chair while trying to reach the peanut M&M’s on the top shelf of my pantry — the same spot where they have been hiding since I chucked them up there 6 months earlier.

Basically I was just ready to stuff my face and zone out in front of the TV.

I grabbed 3 pillows (which in case you were unaware, is the exact amount needed for total relaxation), and I threw my body on the couch as if I were a teenager on prom night.


Flipping through the channels I paused for a minute on Law & Order before deciding that the plotline required entirely too much thinking for the level of relaxation that I was aiming for. I quickly changed the channel to some reality show about hillbillies which only caused me to start gulping my wine, and I prayed for the future of our country. After continuing to scroll through the channel line-up, I finally landed on a movie that seemed dense enough that I wouldn’t have to pay all that much attention to what was going on, in order to actually know what was going on.

Perfect! Entertaining, yet no real thought process required.

(I have like 30 blonde jokes running through my head right now…)

But then, 25 minutes into the movie, all that changed.

With a wine glass in hand and way more M&M’s in my mouth than I am willing to admit, I watched as the main character was shoved against a wall and violently raped.

It felt like everything around me froze in time and I became absolutely fixated on the TV.

I sat up on the edge of the couch, leaned forward to get a better view, and even though my brain was sounding all kinds of alarm bells that I should change the channel, I couldn’t stop watching.

My eyes were burning (probably due to the fact that I’m not sure I was even blinking), and when I suddenly became lightheaded and dizzy I realized that I was holding my breath.

But even that didn’t cause me to change the channel.

Eventually the camera panned out to give me a better view of the broken and battered girl now lying on the floor, and then it abruptly cut to an overly cheerful commercial that made me want to hurl the remote control right through the screen.

I turned the TV off and I didn’t move.

For an hour.


It was like everything that I had been blocking out for the last year and a half came rushing back over me and swallowed me whole in the memory of things I was trying to forget.

The man, my living room, the wall, the rape.


My husband.

The tears started, the sobbing followed, and before I knew it I was kneeling on my bathroom floor and heaving up the nice evening that I had been having only a short time before.

The trauma never goes away.

You can try and forget about it, push it out of your mind, but it never truly goes away.

And I know this! This is a subject that is much talked about in the support groups that I run, a battle that I’ve watched many of my girls fight; a war that just when they thought they won, had reared its ugly head and once again tried to take them down.

It’s all the things they try to forget that come screaming to the surface in a way that they can’t ignore.
It’s the very same situation that I constantly assure my girls is normal. Expected. Part of the healing process.

Yet looking back, I think that in the back of my mind I thought that maybe I was the exception.

I have no idea why I thought that I was the exception.

Maybe I felt that way because as we've talked about before, I don’t really remember a whole lot about the stranger rape, If anything I struggle with the fact that I don’t remember much about it, and so there hasn’t been a whole lot to process, because there isn’t a whole lot that I remember.

Maybe I felt that way because I've done things like bring boys into my bedroom, or walk into a dark house at night, or any of the other things that one would think might spur some sort of PTSD moment, and with the exception of losing my marbles everytime I have to go to court, I've always been fine.

Or maybe it’s because I talk about rape every. Single. Day. I work with rape victims in my nonprofit and I work as a public speaker talking about rape. I write about rape for nearly every company that I work for and because of that I also have to read every single news article about rape that scrolls across my Yahoo homepage. I talk about rape with you guys and I also answer an endless stream of emails containing questions about rape. And when the day is done, I field crisis phone calls from rape victims at all hours of the night.

RAPE.

ALL THE TIME RAPE.

SO MUCH RAPE.


And I say this not out of callousness or insensitivity, I say it to prove a point. My whole life is so much “rape” that it has become routine. Not routine in the sense that I have lost my sense of compassion for the women that I help, but routine in the sense that nothing shocks me anymore. Like a med student who passes out when he first sees a trauma, but three years in could give himself an appendectomy and be fine, it doesn’t mean that it would hurt him any less; it just means that he knows everything about his profession and is able to focus more on the process rather than his own emotions.

I have spent so much time talking about my rape in order to help other people, that I forgot how much it still hurts me.

I’m not the exception, I’ve just learned to be OK, even when I’m really not OK, because other people need me to be OK for them.

And there really isn’t any ending for this post tonight, no words of wisdom or little quotes that you can paste into your Facebook status, because tonight… I don’t know.

I don’t know and that’s OK.

I don’t need to be OK all the time in order to be alright. I can be alright, and sometimes still not be.

I’m only human, I’m allowed.

Tonight, I’m allowing that for myself.

Tonight I'm not Miss Rape Specialist Survivor who has all the answers that everyone needs, because tonight I'm allowing myself the chance to remember that I'm still a victim.

A survivor yes, but still very much a victim.

So I guess if I had any words of wisdom at all, it's that you can be alright, and not always be OK. That you don't always have to be OK in order to be alright.

They are not mutually exclusive.

Tonight I'm not OK, but tomorrow I'll be alright.

If you're not OK right now, maybe tomorrow you will be alright.


Goodnight blogland, sweet dreams.



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24 comments:

  1. (((((((Big hug!!!))))))) We were victims, and now we are survivors! I am a little over 30 years out from being stranger raped in my house and I can honestly say it gets better. We will never forget, but the rush of emotions when reminded of my own rape doesn't happen anymore. Time does it's work of softening the memories and thank God it does. To live in those fresh feelings forever would be pure hell. I prefer survivor over victim because, to me, being a victim implies the rapist is still in control. Being a survivor means we came through something hard and we are in control. It's not to say survivors don't have things to deal with, cuz we do! I just think a survivor sounds strong and survivors, helping other survivors sounds stronger! Do survivors cry, get mad, feel scared? Of course, we are human!! And take an active survivor like yourself who has to be strong for others and it is easy to push your own experience down. What happened to you during that scene is part of the process when dealing with our own personal story. It will be wierd but one day that won't happen and you will notice that you didn't react and feel that rush when thinking of your rape. It needs to happen and it will. We never forget, but we do heal over time.

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    1. Thank you :) It's funny because I'm always the person that you are being for me right now, and it's nice to step back and let you take that roll. Sometimes I need that!

      Thank you :)

      *hugs*

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    2. My pleasure!!! I am honored to be that person for you!! :) We all need that sometimes!!! (((Hugs!!!)))

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  2. *HUGS*

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Eden. Be ok with not being ok. It's ok not to be ok. Sometimes that stuff hits hard, and tears you down, and that's ok. It's ok for it to be scary and painful and rage-inducing.

    Honestly, if you didn't feel those things, THAT'S when I'd start to worry.

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  3. I have always found it interesting what can trigger our pain. I was sexually abused at the age of 7...not technically raped but pretty close...and continued with my life from there as if it was nothing. Sure, I remembered and I know it really affected who I became but I was not raw....until my daughter turned 7! The thought of that happening to her, the grief for my 7 year old self and all the suppressed anger at the perpetrator and at my mother for sweeping it under the rug, came roaring in with a vengence! I was so surprised, so taken off balance! Luckily I have a husband who really SAW me and was able to understand. Therapy helped but there will always be a wound...scabbed over but still not completely healed. We are survivors, good at looking away from our pain, but it is locked inside us...or at least it is with me. I would like to say it goes away...it has gotten better but it is still there nearly 50 years later and it has shaped who I am. I don't dwell on it but, like your movie scene, at times something just hits me and it convulsed inside.
    But you, my dear, are surviving and more! You are reaching out to help those who have lived the torment! You are channeling that horrible experience into good, into healing for others and, ultimately into healing for yourself. It will still be there but take pride in the fact that you have reached out to help so many!

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    1. Right? It's all the stuff that we think we have done a great job shoving down that show up knocking on our doors one day like "uh.. yea hi there. I'm still here. Oh and since you weren't paying any attention to me, I took that time to grown."

      F that lol!

      I'm glad to hear that you are doing better, but sorry you have to go through that at all :(

      *hugs*

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  4. Shit. All I can say to 'try' to make you feel better is... SHIT.

    You and I, we have a lot of parallels in our story, including bat shit crazy mothers (when I read your post on gaslighting I cried), connective tissue disorders that seem, after a parallel diagnosis of seizures and IBS seem to go away after all the gluten, chemicals, and in my case red meat are purged. Oh and the sexual/psychological/physical abuse just makes for the perfect storm doesn't it?

    I have a wonderful guy now, but he knows my PTSD triggers like a champion after 13 years of paying attention to all the little details - but he can't always save me from myself.

    Hang in there. PM me if you need to - even 'experts' need a soft place to land.

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    1. I'm currently seeing a girl who was a rape victim (it was someone she knew rather than a stranger, happens a lot more than you'd think) and while she hasn't had severe PTSD symptoms, it still affects her after all those years - it took a LONG time for her to open up to me sexually and to trust guys in general. Takes effort but it's worth seeing her slowly become happier and more confident in herself.

      You can't change the past, but you can determine to what extent it shapes your present and future and whether or not you are defined by your past, ie you don't have to be defined by your past. You may be a rape victim, but that is not everything that encompasses who you are as a human being. You are also so much more than a "rape victim".

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    2. Absolutely, but I think sometimes, it's OK to just take a step back and be like "you know what, I'm a victim, and right now I just need to sit with that." As long as you don't stay in that place!

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  5. I REALLY needed to hear this, thank you.

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    1. Sending you a hug and hoping you're OK.

      *hugs*

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  6. What you describe does sound like PTSD symptoms, even if you think you've done things without getting triggered (like take guys back to your place/consensual sex, or walk into a dark house at night). Some seemingly innocuous things will be a trigger while some 'expected'/obvious things ('expected'/obvious to you, society, other rape victims etc) won't trigger you at all. It's highly subjective.

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    1. It's definitely PTSD, and I know the nature of the beast is that it creeps up on you when you're not expecting it, but it still sucks :(

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    2. sounds like cPTSD to me. The little c being responsible for you having memory loss rather than flashbacks. I have cPTSD too. I try to confront myself with my trauma (as I have read you need to confront it to work through the feelings to heal and move on). Its hard when you don't remember but I hope I get a little better. Really helped me to read you don't always have to feel good about your past to be alright overall. Good luck on your healing journey.

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    3. Hum, I'm going to have to research that. Thank you!!

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  7. This is really a wonderful post.

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  8. You are amazing. I have read quite a few of your blog posts, and would love to have permission to link to them in my own blog as a fellow victim. Would this be okay with you?
    (My blog is here: yarynamykh.wordpress.com)

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    1. You are welcome to link to my blog, just please don't copy anything :)

      *hugs!* And thank you for the kind words!

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