Gardening

The word ‘trigger’ and the meaning behind it has unfortunately become a joke. I take triggering content seriously, and this post will be one that deals with difficult topics – consent and rape in relationships – that I’ve never spoke out loud. So, if such topics are hard for you to read about, turn back now.

I don’t consider myself a survivor. Or a victim. Maybe because I haven’t fully articulated – or dealt with – the stark fact that I was raped. I hope that, by writing it down and sharing my story, a) I’ll be able to process what happened and b) possibly help others who are, or have been, in my shoes.

Let’s rewind about three years ago. I’d just gotten out of a nine year relationship with my daughter’s father. I was reeling; directionless. Numb. I told myself I would give myself lots of time to figure out my next steps and hold off on another relationship indefinitely.

That didn’t happen. Instead, I met and fell in love with someone just two months later. I was head over heels and my mind was full of warm fuzzies and visions of  happily blended families.

I waited four months before introducing him to my daughter. I wanted to do this right. However, in those months I ignored a lot of red flags. There was a lot of manipulation on his part. Along with jealousy, anger, and blame. He had a lot of his own deep issues and dark pain. I thought I could help. I thought I could heal. Yeah, I believed I could fix him.

One night, a few weeks after we’d gotten back together after breaking up for the second or third time, we were having sex. We were both into it. It was consensual, fun, vaginal sex. In the past we’d explored anal play; I wasn’t a huge fan. On this night, he decided to shove his penis into my ass. He pushed it in, despite me saying, “No, that hurts!” The pain was so awful that I felt dizzy and nauseous. He pulled out and was amused by the blood on his dick. I went to the bathroom to clean up afterward and I was shaking.

Until very recently, this situation did not compute in my brain as rape. Because in our society, we see rape portrayed as something that strangers do to screaming women in alleyways.

I was raped by someone I loved.

Life went on like normal. I went to class, hung out with friends, spent time with my daughter.

My romantic relationship suffered, though. We argued a lot and didn’t trust each other. He drank heavily after being sober for most of our relationship. He was one hell of a scary drunk. I was afraid of him and afraid for him at the same time. Now, I was having trouble focusing. All of my energy was spent worrying about him and about us, our future. How could I make life better and easier for him?

July 2017. One night, I went to the bar with a girlfriend. I had a drink and watched some people play pool. It was a long overdue night out. The entire time I was there – three hours at most – my boyfriend was texting me and messaging me, constantly. He demanded to know who I was with, who I was talking to, how much I was drinking, and when I would be leaving. Eventually I got fed up and told him to fuck off. I turned off my phone notifications when I got home and went to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up to hundreds of messages and a couple photos of his knife stabbed into objects. That was it for me. Shaking, I texted him that we were done. Over. I couldn’t do it anymore and he needed to leave me alone. After I said my piece, I blocked and deleted him from all of my social media. I was freaked out and genuinely afraid for my safety. Luckily, my daughter was at her dad’s.

I kept looking out the window, expecting my now ex boyfriend to pull in the driveway. (I haven’t seen him since July 2017; I still check my surroundings constantly, especially when my daughter is with me).

I saved the threatening photos and texts and took them to the police station. The male officer listened to my complaint. He also downplayed my concerns. I pressed on, however. I’m glad I did.

Victim? Survivor? I don’t relate to either term and I’m not sure I ever will. Sometimes the entire relationship I had with that particular ex seems like it was a dream.

I haven’t fully come to terms with the trauma or the fall out. There has been a lot of denial. Maybe some acceptance?

The fall out – the trust issues, the paranoia – combined with my severe depression and acute anxiety have made daily life hell. I put on a mask, though; I’ve fooled many people into thinking I’m okay. I’ve even fooled myself.

Things we bury have a nasty habit of sprouting back up, uglier and heartier than before. I know this, I swear. So why do I keep forgetting?

It’s Something

Acute anxiety.

Severe depression.

It’s difficult to say those words out loud. It’s easier to say, “I’m fine,” and leave the tightly wrapped gauze alone. The alternative is to unravel the gauze, slowly, strip by strip until the wound is exposed. When the wound is exposed, other things happen, too. Sometimes, it’s the blank looks. Other times it’s pity. There’s also sympathy. Even empathy, in rare occurrences.

All of it hurts. The kind words and the hugs have their own special kind of hurt. During those times I wish the earth would open beneath my feet and suck me in. I think, “If I wasn’t depressed, this person wouldn’t worry about me.” No matter how often I’m told I’m not a burden, that my thoughts and feelings aren’t a burden, the harder I wish I could disappear.

Let’s go back in time.

I’ve been a sensitive and emotional person for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I craved the attention, love, and acceptance of my parents. I’ve always wanted to make them proud. I was the smart and responsible kid. Criticism was hard to swallow; even the slightest bit made me cry. Bad grades made me cry. I worried a lot about disappointing my teachers, my friends, and my parents. But I didn’t worry about disappointing myself. I was pretty far down on my own list of ‘Important People.’

My anxiety also presented in a stranger way. I would lie awake at night, age 16-17, and be convinced that burglars were trying to break into the house. I would stand at my closed bedroom door in the middle of the night, listening, listening, my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I waited for imaginary killers to creep up the stairs. One night was so bad that I was a hairbreadth away from dialing 9-1-1. Somehow, though, I always felt better in the morning. Silly, but better. I didn’t mention it to anyone. I felt like I was going crazy, but I kept it to myself.

Dig the hole a little deeper each time, bury the feeling, pat the dirt back down harder than before.

I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression around age 19. I felt like an utter failure. Like my mental health was a test I had studied for and failed miserably at. For the past ten years I’ve tried so many things: different medication, counseling, therapy, diet/exercise changes. In these ten years, I’ve also given birth to my daughter; completed a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology; ended relationships, started relationships (ended those too); made friends, lost friends, reconnected with old friends; completed a college diploma; found jobs, lost jobs; cut ties with family members; had relatives and acquaintances die…

Life has marched on since my diagnosis. Life goes on, whether we like it or not. There are a lot of things I haven’t dealt with, people and relationships I haven’t properly mourned.

I hold on too tightly. I struggle with letting go. I feel like one giant flaw; a walking, talking gaping wound.

I’m still here.

That’s something.