Friday, November 09, 2018

Not For The Weak Of Heart

**Trigger warning sexual abuse.**

Six weeks ago I was driving along, minding my own business, when I had a flashback of a rape I experienced when I was 17. A tiny detail surfaced that I had totally forgotten about in the rape that took my virginity. That left blood on a couch. By a married man twice my age. The first of many rapes by him over a six month period that only ended when I moved across the country. But didn't stop him from trying again the first time I saw him on my return. The asshole.

I was nearly to a set of lights when the flashback happened and half a block from a parking lot. I pulled into an empty parking spot and momentarily forgot which pedal my foot was on. I pushed my foot down so hard that I lurched forward when I came to a stop. It was work to remember to put the car in park.

Once I did that, even though I knew Comforting Therapist was on a plane travelling out of country, I texted her. I texted Dearest One next. I asked him to come get me as I was too shaken to drive. I couldn't drive for days afterwards.

While I waited for Dearest One to get there I kicked the inside of my car. I totally understand why people, in a fit of rage, kick the shit out of their vehicle. Had I not been in a public parking lot I would've gotten out of my car and done the same.

I looked around and tried to ground myself by noticing as many things on the spectrum of the rainbow as possible. I reminded myself I was safe. That I'd survived the rape. I used every coping method Comforting Therapist has taught me while I waited to hear back from her. There were tears.

I have worked with my therapist long enough that I could have almost predicted what she would write. Things I needed to hear and be reminded of but my initial reply to her text was "oh fucking yay." That is my initial reaction to many things in life. I followed by saying that my aching for healing remained as strong as ever. That I was committed to doing what I could to facilitate that happening.

What followed was two weeks of slow unraveling to the point where I got sent home from work one day because I wasn't coping too well with the question, "How are you?" When you're the first point of contact for students and the public and you can't stop crying it doesn't bode too well for your ability to carry out your duties.

Later that day I had a moment where I almost lost my shit on a trio of boys who I thought was bullying one of the group. It was a saving Grace that stopped them from hearing me ask, after I rolled down my car window, if everyone was okay. I had a sliver of clarity where I realized I was in a public place and was about to lambaste unfairly, the boys I thought were being bullies, for every time a male had invaded my space in a sexual way from the time I was 8 until I was 19. I told myself to roll up the window and drive home.

It got so that I had to negotiate with Dearest One on a daily basis why I was okay to go to work the following day. I kept listing all the tasks I needed to complete before I could think about taking some time off. I spent a good deal of time beating myself up for letting such a tiny memory derail me.

Eventually I made a deal with Dearest One that after a conversation with Comforting Therapist, I would make a decision about taking time off. She told me that my executive functioning skills were impaired by the flashback. Those are some pretty basic skills one needs in order to do life in any reasonable way. After my appointment with her I made a call to my family doctor.

I've had the same family doctor for 20 years. I have never cried in his office, not even when I got my cancer diagnosis. I cried in his office this week. According to him returning to work is months away. I have these moments when I think to myself, "oh I could go to work and be just fine." Never mind that my daily goal at the moment is to have a shower and get dressed.

I've been assured that there are more flashbacks in my future. We are working on coping tools for when that happens. And even though I feel quite secure in those coping tools.....

You know when you want your kid to look at you while you talk to them and they look everywhere but at you? Even when you place their face between the the palms of your hands and they still manage to keep their eyes away from your eyes? That's how I feel when I think about facing another flashback.

Healing trauma is not for the weak of heart. Or spirit. Or body.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.


Chuck Sigars said...

I simply cannot imagine. I think a lot about how our culture shames us for focusing on self-care, and so we shame ourselves. Nothing stopping us from getting out of bed in the morning, just get out of bed. And even though you didn't write it for me, and I've never experienced trauma at this level, it was important for me to read it today.

I wonder if I really have a handle on trauma, actually.

Hope said...

If only it were so easy to actually get out of bed, right? My doctor made a comment about me completing tasks and gauging them and I said, "I'd have to be doing tasks in the first place to do that."

I would never have guessed my trauma ran so deep. I think there are all kinds of trauma that often don't surface on our radar; only the effects of them do.

Erin said...

I love you.

Cyn Huddleston said...

I had someone say they were triggered the other day who didn’t have PTSD or a triggering trauma to trigger from. I wanted to scream. I wanted to explain in great detail a trigger response. Instead I nodded my head gravely and tsktsked a comforting sound. I’m not qualified to judge. But I do anyway. When I’ve seen the long term damage from trauma, such as you describe, it’s hard to be kind. But I was kind. I can’t be in someone else's skin. Hell, I am jumping out of my own regularly.

I’m right there in the car, kicking the shit out of it. I’m right there listing the hundred things that want attention instead of trauma. I’m there hearing my husband be kind, too kind, involved, too involved, etc. I’m anticipating my therapist. I’m making plans. I’m coming unglued. I know me listing all this doesn’t stop your response. But I’m there too. Maybe you can conjure me in the chair next to you, joining in. Or you can throw darts at my imagined head. Maybe that’ll be of some use.

Love. And strength. And patience. And all the things.

Hope said...

Cyn, your reply is validating and comforting. Thank you.