It happens to men, too. Speak up in their defence and shout loudly, we are all in this together.
So, it’s been a while since I last posted, but it is luckily due to me being very happy, balanced, and stable. I should have known that this is how it would be with the Dutchman. He is a positive influence, a bright spark. I’m always being asked if I’m ok with whatever we are doing, and he takes care of my anxiety quite often by telling me I can conquer it, that I’m amazing. It helps immensely to have him with me. He boosts my confidence.
Ok, trigger warning! The piece of text I’m writing about talks about rape prevention and how bullshitty it is, and about how men don’t do anything to prevent themselves from being assaulted… Yet, somehow, women have to. Stay safe everyone. I also briefly mention my abusive ex, but not for long.
What I wanted to talk about today was this, however. This piece of text was on a social media site I’m on, and I had to read it a good few times. It is true. I used to do all those things on the list- thumb over the bottle neck at parties, sticking with a friend when out, walking down the road with my keys in my fist- never once realising that the real danger lurked behind my door at home.
I wonder what would happen if men had to walk the street in fear like that, jumping at shadows, at a second pair of footsteps behind? What if they had to watch their drink in a pub, looking out for weird people hovering near their table? I wonder how they would feel if they constantly, constantly had eyes in the back of their heads?
That will never happen.
So today in therapy, I’ve decided that I have to be brave. I have to hold fifteen-year-old-me’s hand and I have to ring the local sexual assault referral centre to find out if I can report what happened to me. This could end up including a physical exam. Wish me luck.
Trigger Warning guys- I talk about a triggering memory, body issues, and my feelings on all of that. Stay safe. x
This could well be a bunch of my random musings. I’m feeling a little distractible and dissociative today, floating on my after-therapy cloud. I feel like I’m hiding inside my own head, letting my body take over and do adult things so that I can just hide and not have to face anything tougher than ordering a coffee.
I feel like today’s session was a rest. I am so tired with all the frantic busyness of the week before but the late sunsets make it very difficult to sleep. I lie awake, hyper-aware of my body, telling myself it will all be ok soon. I hope.
What struck me about today was that I’m realising that connections I could have made years ago are only now being made due to how much I’m actually able to face them. Certain memories that have always haunted me and made me uncomfortable are actually not the stand alone events I thought they once were.
I have a lot of uncomfortable feelings about my body and sexuality, and I believe that quite a lot of that stems from a memory which has always been difficult for me to remember. As I was writing in my journal today, I had what was pretty much a flashback.
I’m fifteen. I’m going to my new boyfriend’s house- well, the place he stays during the week with his grandparents so he can get to school easier. I’m excited and nervous. I’m going out with someone who says God has given us both a special purpose, that we’re angels in human form, that we will defeat the antichrist and save the world. I lap it up eagerly, mania helping me to swallow the lies.
He gets handsy, but I’m ok with that. In fact, when his hand slips down the front of my jeans I’m not worried, I’m excited. So excited I have my first proper orgasm and my jeans and knickers are soaked.
I’m confused. I knew I could get excited but this is new. He seems to find it exciting too and I’m pleased that he finds me attractive.
Problem is, once he’s finished, we head back to his and I’m left sitting in my soaked clothing.
There’s no offer of help, no jointly-concocted lie about me sitting in a puddle on a park bench. I’m just left wet and embarrassed and uncomfortable, and I’m so embarrassed when my mother asks me about the “funny-smelling” jeans and underwear I threw in the wash.
Clearly that means I’m dirty. I’m ashamed of how excited I got and guilty. I lie to my mother a few days later about sitting in a puddle on a park bench, and when I start bleeding whist passing water, I know I’m being punished for what I did. I’m a dirty whore, clearly.
Antibiotics cleared the infection but my sense of cleanliness altered. I felt ashamed and dirty a lot. Clearly, this incident connects to much of my bad feelings about my body today- my horror of myself, my suspicions that I’m infected by him, that somewhere in my psyche he planted a warped seed and laughed at me as it grew. I always feel dirty. I’ve scrubbed my skin raw today in the shower, as I do often, and I’m paranoid about infections or illnesses very often. I tell myself that I’m anxious, that eventually these symptoms will fade, and they do.
I felt like little red riding hood in town on the way home today, lost in the forest and worried about her family. I got off the bus and stumbled across the path of a real live wolf… Except this one didn’t have his teeth bared at me.
I have known Wolf from seeing him at the hospital where I go for therapy with Dr K. He’s tall, well-muscled, close to fifty and tattooed everywhere. Even his lips are tattooed. However, despite his fearsome appearance, he’s a loyal and gentle friend. We talked today, and instead of blowing the house down, he offered me a cool lemonade at my favourite coffee shop.
This wolf believes in the choices others make. He says that although he also came from a background of abuse, he chose the path of righteousness- he patrols the town centre 7 hours a day because he wants to keep others safe. I always count myself lucky that I didn’t meet one of those wolves that will rip you apart, and that I met a wolf that isn’t what the hunters make him out to be.
When I left him today, he gave me a little gift. An angel pin, the head of it a pearl. He’s told me before that my name is in the city of angels, only one letter different from its earthly form. Although I don’t know what to believe, I like that he thought of me and that he’s smart, understanding, generous and kind.
There are a lot of wolves out there, and some like to rip you apart for liking the colour red. My ex and his grandad were like that- terrible, starving, vicious monsters craving my destruction. Wolf himself hates people like that, having been surrounded by them in his life once.
J is a wolf too I think, but more often than not, he’s the wolf that would fight any threat to protect me and is constantly, neverendingly loyal to me as his partner. He’s helped me lick my wounds and curled his body round mine when I’ve felt as dirty and nauseated as I have been feeling right now.
Little red riding hood and the wolf doesn’t end with a human slicing open the stomach of the beast, pulling the girl out of the darkness. It takes a cunning beast to catch a monster, and a wild heart to love a damaged girl once trapped in the belly of the monster that swallowed her whole.
It’s a good job there are only a few rogue wolves out there, and that the rest of the pack takes care of the weaker ones. I may be injured, but the other wolves I know will not stop growling at the darkness until it goes away.
I will keep wearing my red cape without any shame, bloodstains and all. I don’t need to be ashamed- I never asked the monster to eat me after all.
I’m so sorry I’ve been AWOL recently. This latest discovery in therapy has rocked me to the core. I am now a person abused in childhood, someone I always felt sorry for but rationalised that I never was that person. I knew what I was doing. It was my fault.
Now, I’m realising that it was not my fault, that I was fourteen, a child. I teach children who are fourteen. I don’t want them hurt, and I certainly wouldn’t blame them if someone cruel took advantage of them. Why have I been blaming me?
I’m so tired and fragile at the minute- the smallest thing sets me off. I cry at things that wouldn’t bother normal people. I was sent the third smear test reminder letter in a row today, and it floored me- I was so upset at its callous tone, it’s schoolteacher-style nagging, its overtone of disappointment. I’m fighting a battle with trauma here, and I’m struggling to cope. I’m not having it done- I’m sending the smear test refusal letter back to them. Yet another moment when someone else wants me to do something I’m not comfortable with and doesn’t understand how much pain they’re causing.
I pretty much cried all session with Dr K today. The very hurt fourteen year old was out and upset, and didn’t want to talk but just wanted to cry. I sat there, feeling very small and very afraid, and also very shameful and dirty. Dr K spent the whole session trying to calm me down and to stop me from feeling so horrific. The fourteen year old inside me wanted suicide,self harm, an end to her pain and an escape into the dark. Twenty five year old me wants peace and J and just to curl up on his chest and let him hold me. The only person allowed that close to me is him. I brook no trespass from doctors thinking they can swab me and expect me to be fine. I won’t be.
The doctor at my local surgery is the one who pointed out to me that I’m officially a person abused in childhood. She’s trying her best to help me. I’m terrified of the pain I end up in after sex, or even just when I’ve over-exercised, and she wants to help me find out what it is. She also wants to help me to report the abuse, and for that, I need an examination. I’m terrified of that too, but that one less so- that’s something I can choose to opt in or out of, to be able to tell them I can’t and leave or to be brave and do it. I have the control there. I’m just terrified that they’ll find that he scarred me and that I’m broken, or that maybe there’ll be nothing there and I will be told I’m making it all up. I’m not: I know what happened to me.
I became childlike again today, drawing on the paper Dr K had in her office, explaining all the pain and hurt in pictures. She believes that I’ve done some good today with them, that I’ve made progress and been able to explain what’s wrong and how she can help. I feel like we made progress there too. The drawings I did two weeks ago were just as powerful, the things I wrote from fourteen year old me. I’m so tired now, and all I want to do is curl up in bed and watch something pleasant.
If anyone has any advice for me over all this, I would love some. I don’t know how I’m going to cope with this and what it really means that I have parts of me. I dissociate, floating away, but I remember it all and I know that I’m there. Is this DID? I don’t know.
I need hugs, sleep, and a rest from everything. I’m so tired, everyone.
Hello again all…
I am so sorry I managed to, yet again, vanish off the face of the earth. I’ve been having a pretty hard time. I haven’t even been keeping up with my journal.
I’ve realised why my voices have wanted me to kill myself in May.
Big step forward, I hear you say, and yes it is… a huge step. It all started when I took my puppy for a walk and began to have a conversation with the ‘it’ voice of the dark passenger.
We sat on a tuft of dry grass, I threw handfuls of it for the puppy which she chased. The it voice wasn’t screaming its usual deluge of vitirol. Instead, I was having a conversation with something that was acting like a scared, naughty child and then BOOM-
I’m eight years old or thereabouts. I’m sitting at a table with three naughty boys, the worst in the class. They pinch my belongings and hide them, empty pencil shavings in my hair and on my work, they call me names and hide my precious glasses, without which everything becomes a blur.
The teacher watches and laughs and blames me for their behaviour. I’m only rescued from that table when my mother, mortified that nothing is being done to protect me, goes round to her classroom after school ends. She’s met with indifference from my uncaring teacher, and a justification for splitting me up from my friends and putting me with the class bullies: she’s weird, she deserves it.
The it voice then chose that moment to point out that it had been born on that table with those three horrible boys.
I’m not surprised, then, that quite often I felt like I was dealing with a naughty upset child… because I was. I think I was dealing with soundbites from three nasty little boys that my traumatised brain had classed as a voice. Now I know what it is, I’ve learned to treat it firmly but gently. It’s pretty much vanished now. It’s dormant and quiet and sleepy, benign and un-frightening now. I did an interview with a girl who was training to be a psychologist, and explained what I’d done with the it voice and how much the voice had changed since I engaged it and started asking it questions like that. She was amazed and pleased for me, as was Dr K, and I felt the glow of pride there for myself, too.
The next big event that has happened is working my timeline out and understanding why May is so hard. It’s a trauma anniversary, but I’m sure I’ve wondered about that somewhere in my journal, then dismissed it as I couldn’t think of anything bad that had ever happened to me then.
Whilst with Dr K at therapy, I let her know about the it voice and about my continuing manicy feelings. I said I was feeling anxious a lot and frightened, and that I didn’t know why. Dr K asked me about May again. She reminded me that I was very ill last May but I was ok now, doing a lot better, able to do more and see further into my future than this time last year. She’s right, that’s true. Last year, I was only able to to a thing a day and to keep my schedule for living that the hospital had given me.
I’d been wondering about something all week though, and wanted to know why I was fixating on it so much. I was wondering about the boyfriend I’d picked up at Spring Harvest, an Eastertide Christian event I used to go to when I was younger. I hallucinated pretty badly there, seeing Jesus and angels and all manner of things that should have been reported to a mental health worker. I even heard the ‘Voice of God’- pretty sure now that it was a mania-induced hallucination. Anyway…
Dr K mentioned something about Spring Harvest and my anxious, manic feelings and suddenly something clicked.
I was fourteen when I met Ash. I was on the rebound from my first ever, fairly fantastic boyfriend, and I was so lonely and feeling so unloved that when Ash asked me out I said yes. I went to visit him a little while after we’d gone home from Spring Harvest- he came to visit me first, behaving and sounding like the perfect boyfriend, telling me that I was special and that I needed his love to feel better from my previous boyfriend. So, going to visit Ash at his house was exciting and I was so, so hoping that I would, at last, feel like I was moving on.
What happened was very different.
I was going to bed, after a day of meeting Ash’s friends, seeing the church he went to, meeting his bandmates and his parents. I was pleased with how it had all gone and how happy I was and just, really, the fact that he was so nice. I supposed that kindness was a whole Christian thing- maybe I was lucky now. My old boyfriend had supposedly been a Christian, but I thought maybe he wasn’t so Christian as he would question his faith and try new things. He would push the boundaries- but I liked it. Maybe, this new relationship would become like that…
I was snuggling down in bed but my insides were jumping with excitement. I knew he was across the hall and I knew he could just come over to my room any time, and I wasn’t above a bit of fun before we slept. Actually though, what I wanted most in the world was for me to go to sleep in the arms of the man I loved.
Suddenly the door opened and Ash was standing there. I looked up in surprise. He sneaked in, locked the door, and my feeling of excitement drained into a clump of something else in my stomach. I asked him in a whisper what he was doing there, and he said he wasn’t happy we were apart and he would stay with me. I relaxed a bit. Clearly he just wanted that hug, the same as I did.
The problem was, he didn’t.
The problem was, he started kissing me and trying to move my hands and I wasn’t happy about that, but then he shoved his hands into my pyjama pants and it was hurting and I was asking him to stop and my hands were up against his chest-
I heard footsteps up the stairs and I was so afraid they’d come in and find me and I wanted him to stop so so bad-
He got out of bed in a hurry and there was a knock on the door. He went to open it. I felt so so embarrassed, so ashamed, so upset and revolting. His mother was there, asking him to leave the room. He wouldn’t go.
So of course, she brought his father up and he still wouldn’t leave the room. Two grown adults could not make one teenage boy leave the room, and they had the door open the whole time I was sitting in bed, covers up round my neck, legs pulled into my body as tightly as possible. I was obviously to blame here. They hadn’t addressed a word to me since they had come upstairs. Clearly they were disgusted with me.
The next day, my mother and father had somehow found out about Ash coming into my bedroom, and I was absolutely mortified. I was upset, too, because I didn’t have a clue what had happened the night before and I felt dirty and bad. I had clearly sinned. God was clearly punishing me. Because men always need reining in and the women have to be responsible for that and I hadn’t stopped him, it was my fault I was hurt. I was also at fault for sacrificing more of my purity- who wants to marry a whore?
What I understood in that flash of memory, whilst telling Dr K, was that it was at May half-term that I went to see Ash.
I was so unhappy for all these years in May because I was violated for the first time ever in May half-term.
This week is May half-term.
That’s not been the only thing that’s been the problem.
I had three voices- he, she, and it. It has become an ally, something gentle and quiet and sleepy. He and She were still angry and volatile… until last session with Dr K.
We learned that my She voice is actually angry, frightened, upset fourteen-year-old me, trapped in my own head and screaming for Ash to stop hurting her.
Dr K and I got her out of her little hiding-place in my head. I felt strange, like I was having a flashback, and then suddenly my arm was moving of its own accord- like it used to do once long ago when I would self-harm and not feel like I was in control of my own body. My arm started to write words, and Dr K and I watched it as it spelled out:
I was shocked. Dr K asked what needed to stop, and then suddenly my arm reached out again:
HE HAS TO STOP TOUCHING ME.
We were both shocked, I think, but she kept writing, and she told us the story of that night when I lost trust in men and started to believe that I was sullied and revolting and that God hated me.
Dr K told me and her that we are not to blame for the adults blaming us, for the horrible boy who sexually assaulted us, for the fact that for years I was uncomfortable with what happened but still, STILL blamed myself.
I was exhausted and sleepy after the she voice had her say. Dr K was so proud of me, and worried that I had to teach later on.
I’m a mixture of everything. I still don’t want to admit that the she voice is me, but since I confronted her, she’s quiet and sad, but not that flaming ball of anger that she once was. She’s me now, and that weird schism in my brain has mended. I can feel it there. The wall is torn down, the split gone. Maybe now I can heal better, knowing that two of my voices are actually hurting parts of me that need just as much love as the rest of me.
I am also disturbed that I didn’t recognise that two of my voices were actually parts of me. Also, the arm moving by itself, the writing alone… That’s DID symptoms right there, and I’ve been thinking to myself that I definitely didn’t have DID. Has anyone got any advice for me here? I’m so confused and I would love to know what’s been going on.
At least I am more whole now… although…
Maybe I have been more fractured than I thought.
Last week, I went into therapy with my head packed full of thoughts again, singing, buzzing, my heart pounding and my nerves zinging. I let Dr K know I felt weird the minute I got in- before I’d entered her office, I had been flittery-minded and really cheerful, but during the wait to come in my head had started to play games with me again. Dr K immediately saw that there was something wrong and I let her know that my head was doing that panicky thing, where I can’t focus and the panic forces my heart to thunder in my chest.
She let me know that I was safe, and asked whether I would like to talk about what was wrong.
I explained that the mania, I think, stops me really taking in what happened and that I’m frightened that it isn’t processing properly. I explained that I thought there was more that I wanted to talk about from last week, but also that I was feeling so jittery and on edge that I was having a hard time concentrating.
We spent a little time concentrating on calming me down. Dr K helped me visualise my thoughts, swirling as if in a hurricane, and asked me to immobilise it. I pictured a freezing spell from Harry Potter (I love to read, and Potter novels helped shape who I am. I idolised Hermione Granger!) and trapped my thoughts still, so I could organise them into a timeline. Dr K seemed pleased by my quick thinking, and happy that I had managed to control the raging whirlwind in my mind.
She asked me if I would like to try something new today, once my raging panic and my hideous anxiety were manageable enough for me to concentrate. Dr K had said a while ago that she thought it might be beneficial if we tried EMDR, to try and put the shadowy fiends in my head to rest. I’ve read up on EMDR before, trying to understand what I would be in store for, and have found the idea to be a good thing- who doesn’t want to lay these howling, screaming demons low?
I agreed. We moved our chairs to face each other so that I was dead opposite her. Dr K explained what would happen. She said that she would use her fingers to set a steady pace, moving them side to side so that I could follow them, and let me know that whatever I experienced there with her, I would still be safe, and to just let the images or memories come.
I let her know it was ok, and that I was hoping that my torrent of thoughts would calm down afterwards. I wanted the acute anxiety I was feeling to go, and for the reason behind it to be confronted and laid to rest.
Dr K started to trace her fingers through the air, and I found myself falling back into dissociation, watching the fingers in front of me move through the air with solid repetition. I found myself suddenly seeing flashes of things. A shaft of sunlight across my face, a hollow feeling in my gut, a leaden weight in my arms. A feeling suddenly happened on me- suffocation, my face pushed into a pillow, my lungs straining for air…
And then, boom.
(Here’s where the trigger warning comes in. This happened to me and I had no idea it was wrong, because a sociopath convinced me it was normal.)
I was in my ex’s university halls of residence. It was sunny- his grandparents had helped us move all his stuff in and had left us alone to unpack. I was naked, lying on his unmade bed on a heap of clothes or something. There was a shaft of sunlight falling down onto my face, and I felt leaden. I felt dead. I felt like I was being devoured.
I heard myself narrating what was happening to Dr K, and somehow I was aware of her being there too. I stared at the wall opposite me, seeing things that didn’t make sense. I was trapped between two worlds, helpless to escape but able to explain in a detached way what was happening to me.
The sunlight was really uncomfortable, quite hot. I was leaden. My legs were just immobile. My head was as far out of the room as it could be, detached from what was happening below my waist, detached from the man that was holding my wrists to the bed. I wanted to fly out of the window into the sunlight, fly above my body. I was terrified that someone would knock on the door, but I also really wanted them to. That way, the man would stop and suddenly become my boyfriend again-
His face was a blank nothing. It was a face that was basically devoid of emotion, a face with an agenda. That agenda was not love. That agenda was not pleasure. He had set out to devour me, and that’s what he was doing. I was lying there being eaten alive by something that was supposed to be my boyfriend but had turned into a demon when my clothes had come off.
Suddenly I was on my stomach, kneeling on the floor, my head forced down into the pillow and a hand on the back of my neck. My body suddenly burned. It was on fire. My stomach was cramping and I wanted to scream to stop it all, but my throat felt funny. It didn’t work any more. My tongue was forming words in a dry mouth that would never be spoken. I was gasping for breath, my chest felt like there was a hole in it, and I realised I was without any options.
I started to ask to get out of the room. I was not having sex for the first time with my boyfriend- his body was there but he was not, and he was some sort of soulless shell with defilement as his aim. I was panicking, I didn’t want to be there any more- and Dr K was suddenly talking to me, reassuring me, explaining that I was safe and I was ok, and that all I needed to to was try and think of some way to get out and I would.
I started sobbing: J burst in through the door. He pulled my ex off me, wrapping me in a blanket and scooping me up into his arms. He told my ex that he should never lay hands on me like that again, and I saw in the doorway there my parents and sister. R appeared, looking just as she had done when I was 18, and she had an icicle in her hand. This icicle meant business- it was there to go straight through my ex, to gore him in what passed for a heart.
I let them take me away, persuading R not to stab him, because I wanted to lock the door and leave him in there to starve and die and blow into dust. I was handed the key, and I asked J to melt it into a blob for me, so that I would never have to worry about that bastard getting free again.
Dr K slowly brought me back into the room, helping me remember who I was, what age I was, where I was. I was shaken. I had remembered the first time my ex and I slept together before, but I’d not really made the link between how I felt and my assumption that that’s how sex was. I have said before that I was shocked to discover that sex didn’t hurt, that it was how they said it was supposed to be in film, but now I truly understood why. I had been raped that day.
Dr K and I discussed how horrible it was to have my ex change the way he did in front of me. That face that usually smiled when he saw me had been devoid of any feelings and had become this soulless, evil-looking thing. He didn’t look human. He looked like some sort of nightmare figure, something pretending to be the man I cared about that had suddenly revealed itself to be terrifying- a true monster. No wonder I’ve had nightmares of being devoured by an evil, giant male creature, taking my internal organs for its food and devouring them all into some hollow, cavernous mouth. No wonder I drew the he voice with this giant, sucking maw: that’s what I saw that day in the man who was supposed to love me.
I understand now that he was the evil one. He used my trust and dropped the sociopath’s easygoing, seductive, charming mask and played on my innermost fears. He ate me alive and spat out my bones, wearing the real face inside- the sociopath face, the face that never gets revealed because it literally gives people nightmares. He let the Church tell me I was evil for wanting sex and used that against me in so many ways. He hurt me so badly that day, I’m surprised I didn’t run from the room naked as I was and screaming. I’m pretty sure I bled.
Dr K and I probably have more things to work on using EMDR. It’s not for someone who doesn’t have something they can cling to in order to pull them out of a flashback. I have J and my family and R, and they pulled me out and helped me slam the monster in a room to die. I told him in my memory I wanted him to die. I wanted him to be gone forever and never return.
I think that I’m finding the connections between things that I previously split apart, things that I pushed into separate corners of my mind because it was all too much to deal with. Now I have started to make the connections, I’m seeing things that I wasn’t safe enough to be able to see before.
What I learned from that EMDR session is that my ex probably dropped his mask that day on purpose and let me see the scavenger within, the thing that hungered to split me in two, raid my body for my bones and drink down my life. I saw a real monster in that room. I saw a sociopath unmasked, without pretences or airs and graces, without the lies and the charisma and the front. I saw the truth, and it terrified me. However…
He has not won and I was able to beat him quite easily. I added into the memory of that horrible afternoon something that will always help me remember that I got away, I left him, I am in control now and there are some wonderful people here to help me. I will never forget the gratitude of being rescued. I know logically that they never entered that room, but I see that wonderful rescue party now as if they really did… and, in a sense, they were there. Had they all known that little eighteen-year-old me was being completely torn apart in that room, they would have been there. J has wrapped me in his arms to comfort me- it makes sense that he would wrap me in a blanket. My parents, tough though my relationship with my mother can sometimes be, have never let me down and have always stood up for me. My sister has never left my side and pines for me if I’m away. R will never leave me- she’s essentially another sister.
I am so amazed by the power of the EMDR session we did. It found a dark secret, let it out into the light, and I can now see it without the terror being quite so present. It is, thank the gods, nothing more than a bad memory now.
A bad memory with a shaft of light running through it.
A shaft of light that pulled me out of the void.