Surviving Rape

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This is what happens when you are raped by someone in your social circle:

You go home and cry in the shower so no-one can hear you.

You throw away everything you were wearing, because you never want to see or touch it again.

Then you shower again.  And again. And again until you are finally convinced you can’t smell him on you.

You think about what happened over and over, trying to figure out if there was something you could have done to avoid it.  “I shouldn’t have had that drink.  I shouldn’t have flirted.  I should have dressed more modestly.”

You convince yourself it was your fault.

You don’t sleep much. Or you sleep too much.

You think about going to the police but you don’t because you’ve read all the horror stories about how rape victims are treated.

You try to tell someone, but you don’t because you’re afraid they’ll tell you you’re lying, or that it’s your fault.

You go to the doctor and get an STI screening, but don’t tell her why.  Or maybe you do, but you don’t listen to her when she tells you it’s not your fault.

You cry when your period comes because you’re so relieved you don’t have to make The Decision.

You avoid any gathering he might attend, even if it hurts a friend or family member.

You stop seeing the friends who are still friends with him – but you don’t tell them why.

Then, if you’re lucky…

One of your friends convinces you to stop avoiding her and tell her what’s wrong.

She cries with you.

She gets mad for you.

She tells you it’s not your fault until you believe it.

You get mad.

She helps you find a professional to talk to, and you start fighting your way back to normal.

*Yes, I am speaking from experience. No, I will not go into further detail.

Normally there would be a witty title here

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So, I’ve been quiet.  It’s because I haven’t been in a shiny happy place – in fact I’ve been in the Leave-me-the-hell-alone-so-I-can-wallow-in-my-misery place.  Not a pretty place – and I’m not terribly proud of myself for staying there for so long.  But I’m walking out of it now, and that’s what counts, right?

It started Labor Day weekend, with a trip to Merced to visit my mother-in-law.  It’s something we’ve done dozens of times since we moved away almost 20 years ago – and while it’s never been my favorite thing to do (my relationship with my mother in law?  That’s a post or five for another time) it’s been manageable.  A little anxiety, a lot of irritation, and a touch of the Merced Miasma*, but nothing I couldn’t shake once we crossed the city limits out of Merced and into Atwater.  THIS time… well, this time I was flooded with ugly memories and anxiety that ramped itself up into near-panic in the 4 hours we were there.  I managed to hold myself together until we left my mother-in-law’s house, but by the time we hit the freeway I was crying and felt physically ill.  And for nearly the entire time since, I’ve been down in a very ugly hole.  I felt as though every shred of progress I’d made over the past 4 months was gone and I was right back where I started.

I realized yesterday – during another of my therapy sessions in which I cry and babble incoherently for the first half hour and then figure out what the real issue is in the last 20 minutes – that I have been keeping myself stuck there.  I was embarrassed and ashamed of those memories.  I was afraid to talk about them to anyone but my husband because I feared judgement and abandonment by the people who loved my mother and didn’t know her spiteful abusive vindictive side.  I didn’t want to be one of those cliche’s – sitting in therapy crying about how my parents ruined my life.  And I didn’t want to speak ill of the dead because really, what good would it do?

Turns out, it was doing me no good – and a lot of harm – to stay silent.  I was letting DEAD PEOPLE hurt me again.  I was PROTECTING them again at my own expense.  And I am SO tired of keeping secrets that keep me from healing myself…

Some of this I’ve shared here and elsewhere.  Some of this I’ve kept to myself out of a misplaced sense of shame and perverted familial duty.  It’s what I’ve been choking on for the past 3 weeks and it’s time to spit it out:

My mother abused me verbally and emotionally from the time I stopped being a cute toddler until shortly before she died, when her mind was too far gone to remember how much she enjoyed hurting me.  She protected the sibling who was verbally, emotionally, and eventually sexually abusive to me, and tried to kick me out of the family.  When I married a man whose skin color was too dark for her liking, she cut me off completely for 3 years until my sibling – the abusive one – was broke and had no food and could I please give him dinner and some extra groceries to tide him over til the check she had mailed him arrived?  When I was homeless (because husband number 3 ran off to join the army and left me with no job, no home, and no money), she refused to allow me to move home – while giving free room and board to the sibling who abused me.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, her first words were “well, don’t expect me to pay for your treatments.  I’m not going to lose my home because of you.”  

There were many, many other things – but I don’t know that specifics matter at this point.  Maybe it’s enough to say that every time she had a choice to make about me: to be loving and supportive, or to be cruel and hurtful – she chose to hurt me.  And my father, for the most part, chose to look the other way.  When he DID help or support me, it was behind her back or in a way that wouldn’t make her angry at him (small amounts of money or a bag of groceries were okay.  Love wasn’t). 

What does this have to do with Merced?  Everything, and nothing.  It’s a place I lived for a while, where some really good and really awful things happened to me.  So is San Francisco, and Modesto, and Stockton, and every other city I’ve lived in.  So why now?

My therapist says it can be like that – something triggering the PTSD and depression for no apparent reason.  What matters is to figure out how to get through the episode and not stay trapped there.  Sitting and wallowing hasn’t been working.  Neither has spending hours a day playing my computer games to avoid thinking about it.  Drinking and binge-eating and binge-spending are right out – I know where that leads.  That leaves writing, or finally letting myself feel and forgive ALL of it and let it go.

I’m afraid to let myself feel all of it yet – I am SO afraid it will sweep me back down into the hole and that this time, I won’t be able to climb out.  So here I am – writing semi-coherently with the cursor hovering over Publish, trying to trust that Telling will not hurt me any more than I already hurt.  It’s a choice – and making a choice means I’m not stuck anymore.

 

 

*Merced Miasma: a creeping fog of mild depression and apathy that overtakes most people who live there for more than a few months

All My Life’s A Circle…

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Saturday afternoon, I stood in Circle for the first time in over a decade.  It did more to heal my heart than months and months of therapy could.  This doesn’t mean I’m giving up therapy – I know I still need it.  But there are some things therapy can’t fix. Too many years of self-doubt and a conviction that I was unworthy had created a Goddess shaped hole in my heart and soul that I wasn’t even aware of until She filled it back up again.

I have to remember this.  I have to remember to LOOK for Her when I’m feeling lost.  I don’t want to wait another 10-plus years to feel that way again. 

 

 

Old Ghosts

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Today, I laid the ghost of an old relationship to rest.  Three ghosts, really; the resentment I held against two women I thought I could never live up to, the belief that I was not worthy of that relationship to begin with, and the ghost of the girl I used to be.  I hadn’t realized I was still being haunted, until a chance conversation this morning that finally banished those ghosts for good. There was a lot wrong with that relationship, but I was never unworthy and I didn’t deserve the constant “contrast and compare.” 

I’m not that girl anymore, and I don’t have to carry her baggage – at least that particular set.  I can set it down and leave it behind me, where it belongs.  Maybe with the lighter load, I’ll have the strength and clarity to unpack the rest of her baggage and leave it behind as well.  That girl wasn’t strong enough to do it, but I think the woman I’m becoming is up to the task.

The Other Side Of The Coin

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After my last post, while I was congratulating myself on my eloquence, this annoying little voice in the back of my head started whispering that maybe, I was being a bit of a hypocrite.  Maybe I’M the one who needs to ask for forgiveness.  Damned conscience/better self was insisting that if I REALLY want to be balanced again, I’ve got more work to do..,

So over the past few days, I’ve stepped back and taken another look at my life over the past 3-4 years.  It’s been made somewhat easier by my off again/on again blogging, and my obsessive tendency to hang onto emails, private messages, and instant messenger logs long after it would make sense to most people.  It’s also been very uncomfortable due to those same things.  It’s really hard to pretend the truth away when it’s right there on the screen in front of me, in my own words…

I’ve learned I’ve been manic far more often than I was admitting to anyone – especially myself.  I’ve discovered that every rough patch in my marriage, every fight with a friend, every time I was SO convinced I was right that nobody could tell me otherwise, has coincided with a manic episode.  I’m able to see that my fear of medication changes kept me on the wrong medication – and locked in that mania-depression-mania cycle – far longer than I should have been.  I’ve had to admit that during those episodes, I was a stubborn spiteful bitch – just like my mentally ill mother.  That was a hard one to swallow.  I’m still choking on it a little.  Okay, a lot.

I’ve learned that saying “I love you” is easy.  Saying “I was wrong, I”m sorry” is incredibly difficult – and the longer you wait, the harder it is to say.  Best to say it, and be able to move on to making amends.

 

 

I Do Not Think That Means What You Think It Means.

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If you’re saying “it’s too soon to forgive” in a relationship – friendship, family, marital – that’s pride speaking.  “Too soon” implies you’ll do it when you’re damned good and ready.  “Cant” or “won’t” is at least more honest.

Forgiveness isn’t a favor you grant someone from your lofty moral height, after punishing them by withholding it first.  It’s not about waiting for the other person to make the first move.  Forgiveness isn’t about blame, and it isn’t about forgetting the past, and it’s not about letting people continue to harm you.  Forgiveness is taking a breath and looking for the love beneath the anger.  It’s finding a way to express that love in spite of the anger – even if it is accompanied by a necessary “goodbye”.

When it comes to forgiveness, there is no “too soon.” There is Today, and Too Late.  Be sure, if you choose to say “too soon”, that you can live with what’s left unsaid if Too Late locks the door while you’re waiting for the “right” time.