Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dissociation and Encouragement

“I got 12 'likes' on my blog post! Cool!”
“Four people just messaged me their stories. Wow, I did not prepare a response…”
“Oh man. People keep calling me brave…shit.”
“But it is powerful that people are encouraged by my story…”
“What if I can never write again!?!”

My fragile, turbulent inner self could hardly handle the emotional turmoil. I almost allowed a break down. But I had group therapy Tuesday night and I knew that would be emotionally taxing so I needed to remain strong. I say ‘allow’ a breakdown, because I have discovered that I have a nearly supernatural ability to control emotional breakdowns. I feel them coming on. I decide if the timing is good. If it is, then I shut my bedroom door, crawl in bed and sob for as many hours as it takes. If the timing is bad, I wait and do it later. Of course it doesn’t always work, but with some practice and the proper motivation I can hide extraordinary pain.
One of the common symptoms of PTSD is dissociation. Every rape survivor I’ve talked to has experienced its astounding powers. I honestly indulge. Dissociation is basically zoning out. It’s a psychological detachment from surroundings and often your body. It’s very sci-fi.
If I’m honest, it makes me sad and angry that spacing out and numbing are necessary survival techniques now. I studied theatre performance and creative writing at a university in Chicago before all of this mess, and ‘staying in the moment’ and ‘being present’, where cheesy phrases I genuinely tried to live my life by. Now sometimes the present moment is exactly where I do not want to be.

There was a fair amount of violence involved when I was raped. My brain reacted so fast to the assault that I hardly felt some of the blows. I certainly felt them afterward, and sometimes I feel them now, but my brain numbed me when it happened. Protected me.

I cerebrally comprehend that sharing my story is a brave thing to do, and I can even feel bravery glimmer in my heart sometimes. But being called strong when I feel like a kicked puppy locked in the backyard during a hurricane was nearly impossible to hear. Thankfully, beautiful numbing juice gushed from my brain to my toes and settled everything down allowing me to resist any sizable freakouts. I could even reply to a few encouraging notes.
I oscillate between admiration for the girl who finally mustered the courage and drive to post her story online for all the world to see, and horror. It has touched other survivors. Hopefully they feel less alone. I do. The stories, prayers, thoughts and facebook ‘likes’ stretched to me like telephone wires connecting us in a small way. Being heard feels beautiful. But when sometimes being around my family is too taxing on my strained mind and soul, the support of thousands seems scary. Going public as a rape survivor is something I always intended to do, but sharing in this capacity has its paralyzing side effects. Don’t worry—my therapist informs me that this is normal.
I will still share because being raped is not my fault and I will not act ashamed of it. Being depressed is not a shameful thing, and having PTSD is not a malfunction or mistake. I’m often afraid to write because I’m afraid of what I have to say, but the response to my story has again showed me the strength in vulnerability. I am blessed by it, even if that’s hard to feel right now.


  1. Your two posts are both something I can relate so strongly to. After being sexually assaulted my sophomore year and dealing with PTSD afterward was grueling some days. Going as public as you have though amazes me- I can't imagine doing that, I don't have that strength to fully face reality after 2 years I suppose. But you're doing great, even when you might not feel like it on those exhausting days, even when all just feel hopeless- in my experience, those moments are some of the most powerful as they so clearly contrast the beautiful moments that occur. I don't really know where I am going with this other than, you are amazing and I wish you and your new family that absolute best.

  2. You have nothing to be ashamed of here! Thank you for sharing. Praying for love to so envelope you so that all the fear and pain is destroyed.

  3. I read your post yesterday and I had to walk away because it hit me so close to home. I was not brave like you. I hid mine in the deepest crevices of my soul until years later when I have talked about with a few people. If I could go back I would change that because when we hide things away and keep it a secret it gains more power over us. When we keep it a secret it causes us to take on shame. And shame does nothing but seek to destroy us. Because I didn't deal with what happened to me right away it took years for me to heal. Please know you don't have to always be strong. Sometimes just knowing you are resilient is enough.

    You don't know me Emily, but I know your mother in law, Cassie and their family quite well. Twyla shared your blog post and I am so thankful she did. I've been praying for you since shortly after this happened to you but after reading your post the other day, my heart sobbed for you and then I began to pray for you and Gabe. You are so brave and wise. Brave because you are facing this giant instead of running from it and letting it define you. Wise because you are dealing with it and taking active measures to help yourself through this. Your story is an important one because there are many of us out there that have never ever told our story and you telling yours, gives others permission to tell theirs. You sharing your story in an open venue like your blog gives people a place to tell their secrets and they know it's safe to do so because you have walked in those shoes. But also know, many will read your posts and never respond because they are too afraid or don't know how to begin to speak. Just know that people are listening and you will reach far more people than you will ever know of.

    Your writing voice is beautiful and your message and honesty will go a long ways to reach those looking for the courage to speak up. Emily, people will find their voices because you are brave enough to speak yours. Thank you! Just maybe, some day I will be able to share my story. :)

  4. I love you deeply, daughter of mine.

    As Lori said, many people keep the "secret" and feel shame. I am most proud that you have said loud and clear "I have done nothing to be ashamed of."

    Watching you walk this out is nothing less than amazing.

  5. Emily, you are so right - you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your speaking up and sharing your story publicly communicates that vital message to other survivors in such a real and tangible way. I admire your vulnerability and your courage, especially knowing that these feelings are hard to feel.

  6. Even in high school and not knowing you that well outside of classes, I knew you were strong.