“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.