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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"To live is to be slowly born." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I have spent the past four years doing things I'm glad I did--but which I never wish to do again.

Speaking about my past was the first step, and it took nearly nine months before I was able to state my experiences clearly and with proper terminology. It was horribly painful. I don't want to go through that process again.

Stepping outside of the cocoon of safety I had spun for myself took great effort. I had to detach myself from Darrin, and allow emotional vulnerability with people whom I had not known long. I had to trust that they would not hurt me in any way (which is always stupid, but still important). I had to believe that those whom I trusted loved me and had my best interests at heart. I can't describe the stress this created, and I spent nearly three years forcing myself to stay in friendships when I wished to run. The wishing to run part did not come because the friendships were unhealthy or not delightful. It happened because I was afraid. I stayed anyway, and it was agonizing and difficult (not just for me--for all involved--and I'm sorry). I don't want to experience that growth and understanding thing again.

Meeting with the man who raped me as an adolescent was an important step. I thought about it for a long time before I actually planned and carried out my desire to see him again and kill the imaginary monster my brain had created in his image. It was a delightful surprise when more than one person offered to accompany me on my quest, although I didn't really want anyone to see him. In the end, I was grateful I hadn't gone alone. As I have very little memory of what happened in the hours following that meeting, it's good that there was someone to be with me and make sure I didn't do anything embarrassing or against the law. And meeting with that man made me feel in control of my life again. It also helped me understand he's just an old man who's had a difficult, rather unhappy life. I don't feel sorry for him. I'm no longer afraid, either. But the meeting itself made me sick to my stomach in a way I've not experienced since--and I don't ever want to experience it again.

Accepting the truths I have hidden from myself was next to impossible. With all my heart I wanted to be someone who had never been harmed in the ways I had been. And I did my best to become that other person--several times. Integrating those parts with the child/adolescent/young lady who has been hurting for many, many years was painful in ways I cannot describe. I experienced depression, uncontrollable anger, physical pain, eating disorder recurrence, suicidal thoughts and desires, and erratic behavior. I lost my identity and at one point was certain I had lost my soul. People who care about me continued to remind me that I am Sam...Sam, I am...and to help me find my footing once again. I still wish I was not hurt in the ways I experienced. I would love to imagine my mother cherished me and nurtured me in place of the actual abuse and neglect. I do not ever want to be a rape survivor--but I am. There are too many parts of my life I don't like to remember--but they happened to me. They do not define or describe me. Integration was unpleasant. It still makes me nauseated to think of the requirements necessary to become whole, but it is finished. And while I'm grateful for the end result, I never, ever want to do it again.

And so I look at that end result:
1. I have PTSD. This means sometimes I might not be at my best when I'm with friends and family. People might not always understand my demeanor or reactions. Sometimes I'll wish to stay home where it's quiet rather than be out among throngs of people. If I trust you, I might ask you to remain with me while I work through the aftermath of a flashback or nightmare. Sometimes, if we're chatting online, I might have to leave before the conversation is over because I'm not always able to read between the lines, or I might feel suddenly afraid of you, or I might feel spontaneously sad or overwhelmed. But I don't believe I will always be this way. Some days will be better than others--and one day I might not have to tell anyone I have PTSD, because the symptoms will be manageable and slight or not even there at all.

2. I have an anxiety disorder. Therapist believes I've had it all my life. Occasionally it becomes unmanageable, usually when I'm overworked, overtired, or life is overwhelming. It rarely affects anyone but me. It's uncomfortable and sometimes scary. Once in awhile it manifests itself in the form of sleepwalking or night terrors. During the day, one might see my hands shaking, or I have difficulty sitting still. But mostly, I think no one notices it at all. This is not something I would choose to have, but it's manageable for the most part, and has very little impact on me or those I love.

3. I have learned that sometimes people don't leave. They don't let you down, betray you, or harm you in unspeakable ways. This has taken me four years to accept, and some days I still have to remind myself of it. Interestingly, on those days someone inevitably calls me or finds me online for a chat or sends me an email. And in coming to this knowledge, learning to trust, and accepting that I often give--just as I receive, I have recognized that I no longer agonize about being harmed by people who are closest to me. And if, for whatever reason, life got busy and took them away, it would hurt for awhile and I would miss them, and then I would wait until such time as we could reunite. I don't want this to happen. I know that it does. I know if it does, it will be okay. I will be okay.

4. I have experienced things no one should have to. This doesn't make me brave or strong or different, really, from anyone else--just more unfortunate than those who haven't experienced similar things. I choose not to see the experiences as "lessons" or "ways to help others" or "trials needed for growth" or any other inane platitude put forth by those who need to find a silver lining in any nasty situation. Instead, I choose to see them as they are--absolutely unacceptable forms of human interaction. I don't believe I'm a better person because of them. I believe I would still be who I am if I had been nurtured and loved and never raped or abused--I just wouldn't have as many disorders and phobias, especially to touch. I have chosen to rise above the actions which harmed me and I have worked myself to exhaustion to achieve relief from the affects of those actions. I have chosen to find joy in each day. I have chosen to live without fear. I have chosen to love with abandon. This did not come about because I was harmed, it happened because I wished for it, worked for it, and would settle for nothing less, and I will continue to choose this. It is my doing, my work, my payoff--and I refuse to give credence to acts that should never have happened by connecting them to the person I have become. In essence, the work I have done has uncovered the person who was shrouded in the blackness of fear resulting from those acts. I have emerged from the shroud. It has no claim to the person I am.

I am no longer exhausted by life. I am no longer consumed by fear. It's time to take all that I am--difficulties and strengths equally--time be live...


  1. Point five is beautiful and inspiring.

  2. Thanks, Braden--I have to say, I published this and it was sent to you before I realized I couldn't count. The numerical mistake is mine, not y ours.