Today I brought my therapist a trauma narrative showing ten years of ritualistic sexual violence. I haven’t been able to speak the words to her in all the years we’ve worked together, so I just took a chance and wrote it out. She read it in session and assured me that she saw no difference in me. I am glad of that.
We’re going to work through the trauma paragraph-by-paragraph until it no longer has a hold on my life and mind. It took five years to do this with my memory of physical trauma. I have no idea how long this journey will take, but I am so lucky to have a wonderful therapist at my side.
I walk in to this a terrified person who feels ashamed of her body at all costs. I hope to walk out of it with peace and pride. It has begun.
It isn’t often that I feel proud of myself, but today, I do. For the first time in 18 years, I had a ‘Well Woman’ exam this morning. This includes a breast exam, smear test and palpitation to check the uterus and ovaries. That’s a great deal of physical contact in very personal areas. My therapist and I have been working on this for a year or so now, and it’s finally done.
As my therapist and I planned, I identified myself to the nurse as a survivor of sexual trauma before even starting the prep. She told the doctor, who, upon entering the room, told me how brave I was to be there. This woman who had just learnt a dark secret from my past called me brave. She walked me through the whole process, even showing me the instruments that would be used. I began to relax a bit.
The nurse held my hand through the entire exam. When I got scared and dizzy, I just looked over at her and knew someone was on my side. It isn’t that I thought the doctor was against me; it’s just that she became a danger to me in my survivor’s mind the minute she touched me below the waist. The whole exam probably took five minutes, and I am proud of each one of them.
I’ve put this off for so many years now. It’s humbling that a doctor and nurse could work together so well to help me through it.
Yesterday was supposed to be my first therapy session talking about sexual trauma. We did discuss it in very academic tones, but a great deal of the session was devoted to preparing for this. We had to discuss a safety plan of sorts for the self injury. The therapist suggested that I write out affirmations about how my body deserves to be nurtured because of what it has been through and that I read those when the urge to cut gets strong. At the time, it seemed very helpful. Now it just seems like a lie I’ll be forced to tell myself. Perhaps that was the point– to keep reading it until I believe it.
The problem is the urges are getting stronger and are actually ‘progressing’ to suicidal feelings. All day today I’ve concentrated on how I could go through with it. I’ve thought about the knife slipping a little deeply down my forearm, about the pills in the drawer that could help me slip away. I’m fighting the thoughts, but it’s difficult when they are so present. I’ve emailed and texted friends, not mentioning suicidal feelings. Just making connections and distracting myself all at the same time. This is not a healthy or safe place to be.
As I told the therapist yesterday, I feel like an adolescent girl with a razor and a Sylvia Plath book. A request for you, my dear readers– if you are in your mid-twenties or older and have a problem with self-injury, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Only if you feel like sharing, of course. I feel very alone in terms of struggling with this issue as an adult, and I’d like to hear from others who are dealing with it. Many thanks in advance. Also, remember that your emails will be as confidential as you want. I don’t even need your actual age if you’d prefer not to give it.
Peace to us all.
It’s the title of a Sarah McLachlan song that fits well with the upcoming new twist in my therapy journey: ‘I will stare into the sun until its light doesn’t blind me. I will walk into the fire until its heat doesn’t burn me. And I will feed the fire.’
At a recent session, it occurred to me that I’m through part of the trauma processing. I can think of the physical abuse and not shrink back in horror (most of the time). When memories get triggered, I’m good at picking a coping skill to lean on (most of the time). And most of the time is the best I’m going to do. Therapy is about learning to cope with memories, not erasing them. The scars of my past will always come back to haunt me. The thing I’m proud of now is that, when flashbacks and negative feelings about the physical abuse surface, I can force them in to submission before they take over.
All of that said, I asked the therapist if we could re-assess my treatment plan and go over new goals. A major part of our journey together is done. Now, the time has come to deal with the sexual trauma. Even thinking the words causes me to feel nauseous. Saying them aloud makes me physically ill. Still, I’ll never get past this if I keep avoiding it. When there was so much physical trauma to contend with, trying to deal with this bit was too much to consider. I go kicking and screaming in to this new part of my journey, but I go nonetheless.
Already, I feel dirty inside and out. I feel hopeless and want to shrink away from any source of light, lest someone notice this secret of mine. Any time I think closely about this journey I’m taking on, the memories swirl all about me, and I start to feel like a spoiled little child who is whining because things didn’t go her way. I feel like hiding somewhere dark and quiet so that no one even notices my existence. Shame. Fear. No good. Hopeless. Alone.
Wish me luck, folks. This could get interesting.
I was contacted by someone from the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) regarding the 2009 Blogathon. Blogathon is a charitable event in which bloggers pledge to post every half hour for a consecutive 24 hour period. It’s a great way to support this organisation and to raise awareness for their cause. I’m not able to participate this year– interrupting my sleep/wake cycle that much is likely to go very badly for me– but I support RAINN’s efforts whole-heartedly.
If you’re interested in participating, visit RAINN’s 2009 Blogathon page. The deadline to enter your blog is 22 July. For general information on Blogathon 2009, visit the official Blogathon page.
Disclaimer: I do not work for RAINN. I’m simply trying to gain support and awareness for an organisation that has helped so many people affected by sexual violence.
I was raped.
There, I said it. Or rather wrote it.
It didn’t happen to Awen or Rainn or anyone else in my mind who took part of it. It happened to me. *I* was raped. Me. Not an alter or any other fragment of my mind. It happened to me. And I am furious.
What right did these ‘men’ have to treat me like that? What right did they have to enter *my* body and use it for their twisted purposes? I want to find them and demand these answers. I want to tie them down and let them feel how helpless I was, even though I know they wouldn’t feel helpless at all. I want to know that they will answer to some higher power, even though I know that might not happen. Most of all, I want to know that this will never happen to me again, even though I know no one can promise that.
These excuses for people tied me down on a stone table and raped me. *Me.* At the time, I felt fear. I wasn’t sure if they would kill me afterward, and I wasn’t sure whether that would be best for me. They took something from me that day that I won’t get back. Now, though, the fear is gone and I am *angry.* I’m so angry I could scream. Sometimes I think that would actually make me feel better. I want to lash out at the people who hurt me. I want to make them feel as bad as I did. I want them to carry around the shame I still feel. I want them to feel the nausea I’m feeling simply from writing this post. I threw up for days after that and took showers so hot my skin blistered. It didn’t go away.
Now I feel dirty, inside and out. It’s like a stigma I carry that only a few people know about, but that I feel people can tell simply by meeting me. I feel like they took my body as their own, and it’s a fight to reclaim that. I’m not even close to there yet. But I’ve said it. I was raped. It happened to me. Dissociation doesn’t change that.
My mother was roughly the age I am now when she developed uterine cancer. She survived fine with a partial hysterectomy, but it’s still a bit worrisome to think of. In spite of that, my last PAP smear was 10 years ago. I cannot bring myself even to make an appointment for the bloody test. I found a clinic and dialed the number once, and that sent me in to a full-on panic attack, complete with shakes, sweats, and dizziness. Not fun.
Time for a little from the too much information file– my periods have been incredibly irregular lately. Considering I can usually count 28 days ahead and know exactly when the next will start, the irregular bit is bothering me, as is the slight pain in my right breast that has been there for about a year now. The sensible, adult thing to do, then, is go to an OB-GYN and get a look over. I can *not* seem to take that step, though. I know I need to have the test. It just feels like a violation. It feels like that word I still can’t bring myself to say.
For those of you who are female survivors of sexual assault, regardless of your age at the time, how do you cope with tests like this one? Gynaecological exams overall? I’d really appreciate any advice you can offer. Please feel free to email me as well if you aren’t comfortable replying on the blog. Thanks very much.