depression

Therapy and My Trauma Narrative

TRIGGER WARNING- Rape, sexual assault

Hey friends-

I haven’t posted recently so while I wait in the lobby of the DC Rape Crisis Center, I figured I would write a little somethin’ somethin’.

It has been four weeks since my last therapy appointment….and it has also been about four weeks since I have given a shit about myself.

These last four weeks I have distracted myself with friends and family and a sort-of boyfriend (who, I am sure, would not appreciate that title)…distracted myself with work and binge-watching Netflix.

It is actually sometimes a solid choice to distract myself. It is an effort to not feel feelings and an effort to not succumb to the healthy act of just feeling a little bit shitty and allowing myself to process my shitty feelings.

I am scared to go to therapy today. Because I know what is on the docket to talk about…

Today will be the first time I have ever talked about the two rapes that followed losing my virginity. Both in my sixteenth year of life. One sick and violent and almost life-threatening. One sad and depressing and a moment of almost rock-bottom.

These last four weeks have taught me that I really do rely on therapy to keep me accountable. And that is good- it keeps me accountable! It is also kinda shitty- because I have been bad about keeping myself accountable in my self-love. I have fallen off the bandwagon of working out, my self-love-activity shortened to just three or four minutes of stretching in the morning in place of the 15 minutes of yoga I was doing, which was a replacement for the 30 minute full-on workouts I was keeping up with so well. I missed my last two classes of my Financial Peace University class because I was on vacation, and thus I fell off another bandwagon. Not like I had much money to waste, though.

So…yeah. Four weeks of distracting myself. Partially because I think that I moved my source of validation. I went from being really awesome at loving myself and saying “good on you, Jess! You’re great!” to searching for external sources of validation (namely, boys). That’s dangerous. Because I went on a spree of needing attention in order to feel good about myself. Which is what all of the fucking therapy is supposed to be changing. Jesus. So I went on a shitty bender of bad habits. And I knew I would have to fess up to the therapist as well as talk about these two assaults and I am nervous as hell. So I kept ignoring the problem instead of fixing it.

After Therapy

Balls. That was a rough sesh. I think it was the second time I’ve cried while in therapy with the DCRCC. Talked about the ups of the last month- vacation, boyfriend, how incredible my support system (housemates!) in DC is, new job. Then the last 40 ish minutes were a continuation of my trauma narrative. A part of my story that I’ve never told before. I talked about the two sexual assaults that occurred after I lost my virginity to rape. Unfortunately, they were also the next two times I had sex.

A few months after my first assault, I was invited to a birthday party of a moderately close acquaintance. I had met her through J, my first assailant. I was hesitant to go, but she apparently wanted me to come really badly, so I convinced my mom to let me have a sleepover at a different friend’s house….and I did the shitty teenager thing- went with the friend my mom allowed me to spend the night with to this “rager” of a 17th birthday party. Ha.

Got there and her stepdad was already drunk. He called me by the wrong name and told me I looked pretty. I ignored him ’cause he was gross, old, and drunk, and I was happy to hang out with a bunch of teenagers. Stepdad came to the gaggle of teens and asked if anyone would help him go down to the basement to get more beer from the fridge or whatever. I volunteered, because I am just too damn helpful. 

He calls me the wrong name again, and sends me down first. He said the light is out, but to make a left at the bottom of the stairs and go through the first doorway. The basement was smelly and unfinished, but seemed to have separate rooms. I went through the doorway, and the door shut behind me as he turned the light on.

There is a bare mattress on the floor and a set of chains on the wall. Fucking chains. He kisses my neck and pulls at my clothes (clothes I still remember and have never worn since).

And it wasn’t until he had just gotten me on the mattress that J, of all people, pushed the door open and got the guy off of me. I look back now and find some sick irony in my first assailant pulling my second off of me. At the time I was just mortified and broken. I rushed getting my clothes back on, and left with the friend who went to the party with me. She got her mom to pick us up…and I actually did end up spending the night at her house. She was the only person I ever told this story to. 

In my therapist’s office, a comfortable place that always smells like cookies and has a big, comfy IKEA couch, I sat frozen in fear with tears streaming down my face as I recounted that buried memory. Just thinking about it now, in my own dining room, surrounded by familiar and comfortable things, I feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Because I always think about the “what ifs” of that situation. And my stomach turns. And the tears come back. Because that was probably the single most terrifying experience of my entire life.

A few months later, I had gone through a hella rough time at home and school. I had gotten caught shoplifting (eyeliner and cold medicine for a friend- I know, I’m an idiot) and mom got called. She basically exiled me and told me that I was the scum of the earth. Fair enough, mom. Thieves and liars are the scum of the earth to ya, and I had fallen into one of those categories. (FYI- mom and I are cool now. I understand where she was coming from. She’s a damn good mom.)

So for the first time in my life I was grounded. And I was pretty depressed. And on the third night of my grounding, a boy from school texted me and said he was down the street from my house- did I want him to come over and hang out? I told him I was grounded and he asked if there was a way he could sneak into my house. I said yes. So he hopped in the window of my sister’s old room and we chatted for a while. I told him it was getting late and he should probably leave when he pulled a bottle of Kahlua out of his backpack and chugged some (super gross, I know. Silly teenagers). He offered it to me and, you know, how could I say no? So I drank that shit. And I got a little bit drunk off of it in like thirty minutes. And I told him he should go. But he told me I was pretty. So he wanted to stay. And he started to kiss me and I felt like that was okay.

Then he started to put his hands on me, and I pulled away. I told him I wasn’t ready for that. He just told me do drink more and it would be okay. I had another drink and he undid my pants. I kept pushing him away and saying no. 

Well, there’s a pattern with my stories so I won’t finish that one in detail. But that was big ‘ole number three. I never told anyone about him, either. Because once in that school another girl claimed he had raped her. And the fucking school turned on her. Now I’m inclined to believe she was telling the truth. But at the time I just didn’t want to get a nickname calling me crazy or having people put notes in my lockers that said “do you really want to get raped?” Because that is what happened to her. And I wish with all my might that I could go back in time and be the only person in that school to believe her.

It has taken me a week to write this post. Because these stories are hard as fuck to tell. And because yes, I want to make you feel uncomfortable, dear audience- but I don’t want to scare you or give you too much at once. Because I want you to come back and keep reading my trauma narrative. Because I want you to share these stories with anyone you think they might help. And because I want to give you the confidence to share your own truths.

I think this one is as good as its gonna get. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my narrative. I’m doing this for me and my healing process, but I am also doing it for all of the people who contact me and tell me that they read my story and it gave them hope, or gave them confidence. Thank you for being so brave and strong and keep on being the beautiful you that you are.

Until next time, friends! ❤

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Living With Trauma Part One: Living a Little Bit Broken

Hey, friends. This will probably be sort of long. Also not very fun to read. I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. I’m sorry in advance for, well, anything I guess.

TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual assault (Dad, you might not want to read this)

Folks, I have a problem with how trivial people seem to find traumatic experiences. I have a problem with how uninformed the world seems to be on how just one experience can change someone’s life and can be a major hindrance forever.

In the past year, I have been very open about being raped while studying abroad in Spain. I discussed the matter on this blog earlier this year. I have been writing about it and talking about it to help me heal. Maybe it isn’t very comfortable for you to read, and for that I am a little bit sorry- I hate making people uncomfortable or unhappy- but I have been told so many times that people are grateful for my lack of silence. I am determined to not be silenced. I know it is uncomfortable to hear about, I know it is unfortunate to read about- but I will not keep quiet. People need to know their friends, sisters, brothers, and loved ones that have been through even one traumatic experience need love and patience.

Every day since I lost my virginity to date rape at the age of fifteen, I have lived with trauma. It isn’t something that you “get through.” Trauma stays with you forever and you just have to adapt to living a little bit broken.

Every day since I was raped again at the age of sixteen, I have woken up wondering if I would ever actually be worth someone’s love.

I haven’t been sure of any of my decisions since I was fifteen. I can never tell if I want something because I actually want it or because it will make people (i.e. men) like me more.

I haven’t loved myself fully….ever, I don’t think. Before losing my virginity, I didn’t love myself because I was a silly, angsty teenager. After it, there’s like I live every day trying to find something to fill that little hole so I can feel me again. Because being taken advantage of over and over again made me feel as if I had no say in the matter- I didn’t (and won’t ever) have a choice of what to do with my body.

So you know what I did to help myself get over it? I consented all over the place. I swung that pendulum way over and did everything I could to have the control of the outcome of my sex life. And that did help in some ways. But in other ways it just made me feel worse about my body and reinforced the stupid, terrible, cancerous idea that I am only worth what I can give to someone who wants me. I am only pretty if I am wanted. I am only loveable if I am wanted. And that constant discourse in my head- “I’m me, I’m amazing and charming and kind and loveable and I am cared for greatly,” and “I am trash, I am nothing but a slut, I am dirty and deserve nothing but what I’ve gotten and will inevitably get again,” drives me bonkers every day.

It is so hard to wake up and hate yourself….and go on living anyway. I can’t say every day I want to die, not anymore. I’ve learned how to live a little bit broken. But I often find myself wanting to put myself into dangerous situations so I can end this war within my head of my true self, my happy, whole, loving self and my sad, rejected, shadow of a self. I look in the mirror and think “I look incredible! Thank you, Beachbody! I feel great!!” and then, quick as a whip, I also think “you’re wantable.”

That second thought weighs on my soul.

It weighs there because I’ve been taught my whole life by most of my world that I am only as good as my worth to men. And if I’m only worth what my body can provide, then I deserve to be raped, I deserve to be taken advantage of, because that’s all I’m good for.

And that is fucked up.

I live every single day trying to deliver as much kindness into the world as I can. I throw compliments and smiles and random stranger high-fives out like candy at a parade. I do this because I understand that so many people live with something that weighs them down. No, not everyone is a sexual assault survivor, but everyone has bad days and everyone will have something really shitty happen to them in their life and if I can brighten anyone’s day, then I feel as if I’m making a difference.

All I want to do is show people that kindness still exists. Because things like being assaulted by a man who is just supposed to drive me home and take my money for that business transaction shouldn’t happen.

I should never hear “stop crying, now keep going so I can finish” from a cab driver.

I should never have to try to find and stumble my way home because all I wanted to do was get home safely after a night out with my friends.

Yes, I was drunk when I was assaulted this weekend.

No, that doesn’t make my story any less legitimate.

If you think that I put myself into a dangerous situation because I was wearing a dress and drinking that night, I want you to take any comment you have, think it in your head all you want, and get the hell out of my life because that poisonous thinking is what makes me never want to report it.

That awful rape culture makes it hard for me to be sure of myself when detectives are asking me questions.

That line of thinking makes me cry while I’m going through an exam at the hospital. Because what if they don’t believe me because I was drunk?

That is not okay.

Assault is never the victim’s fault. No consent means no consent. Period. End of story.

And that’s why I live with trauma. I live a little bit broken, because no matter how much healing I do, there’s always going to be a scar, and things like what happened this weekend rip that scar open and pour in a whole new batch of self-loathing and awful, scary thoughts.

It is so hard to love yourself in a world that perpetuates things like this. It is hard to heal when people always ask me “well, were you drinking?” It is so hard to not blame myself when so many people blame me.

And that is what living with trauma is like. That is just a short (yes, short. ha.) glimpse into the fucking terror that I wake up with every day. Night terrors that send me into panic attacks because I know it is happening again. Anxiety when I’m doing literally anything. Anything could trigger me into a weeping shell of a human.

So if I scream when you come up behind me and touch me or if I call you out for making a rape joke, deal with it. I have bigger problems than your pride being hurt because it was “just a joke.”

My dignity has been stripped from my very soul and I live every day trying to rebuild it.

That’s why I live a little bit broken.