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.
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.
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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