So much of me wants to take into account the advice of other exited womyn; to take heed of their words when they say we don’t need to remember everything, that we need to accept and acknowledge our pasts and our realities to the point where we can heal, but we don’t need to remember each and every moment of pain, trauma and torture.
But my brain seems far too reluctant to pay much attention to that; it seems intent on remembering each and every single little detail (though it could just be that after close to twenty years of rapes and trauma and abuse there’s just so much of it that I’m inevitably gonna end up having to process so much just to reach the point where I don’t have to remember it all. I’m gonna end up, no matter what, remembering at least something or I won’t have anything to accept and acknowledge and heal from.) and no matter how much I try and ease the flow of flashbacks, they just don’t seem to stop.
Logically, I know that part of this is because once again I’m actively avoiding healing, I’m actively pushing away my memories and actively avoiding therapy and not really engaging with anything. There’s one simple reason for this and that’s that I’m happy.
For the first time in my life, I actually know what happiness is. I’m starting to actually understand concepts such as happiness, calmness, trust, safety and I don’t wanna mess with that.
My trauma’s become this big, looming hornets nest and frankly, I don’t wanna poke it. And why would I? I’m experiencing positive things for the first time in my life and I have the option to welcome pain and trauma back into my life (they might be diminished as they’re based on memories, but it’s still pain and it’s still trauma), I don’t only have the option, but it is something that I’m inevitably going to have to do and that terrifies me; I guess you can understand my reluctance?
Despite all of this, despite my reluctance, I know damn well that I have to do it. I might not exactly be old, but I’ve lived with trauma long enough to know that the more I ignore it, the more that it’s gonna come back and bite me in the arse. Dissociation and distancing has served me well, it’s kept me alive this long, but there’s gotta be a point where I let go of those coping mechanisms and actually try and heal.
I sometimes really, really, really hate being smart enough to understand the healing process and understand the way that trauma works. I wish I could just enjoy this happiness, blissfully unaware, but I do know that the longer I avoid engaging with the healing process, the worse the consequences are gonna be. There really is only so long you can ignore trauma before it comes and bites you in the arse again.
And so, once again, reluctantly, I’m making a commitment to all this healing malarkey.
I had a realisation, yesterday, realised exactly where the starting point for me was. The frustrating thing? This is the same realisation I had about three years ago; I was right then and I’m still right now. I know myself well enough to know what it is that I need and how to reach it and I did know the same three years ago. I on some level knew that there was a specific starting point for my healing and whilst other aspects of my trauma might come up in the process (and has done) that this is where I need to focus the work I do, first.
So, this starting point. I think it’s with my ex, which I hate, because I’m still utterly fucking terrified of him, but I do think it’s where my healing work needs to start.
You see, the thing is, despite this blog, despite the way I write here and elsewhere, I haven’t even remotely accepted my trauma as trauma. If I was to write this blog and spend every other post going ‘nope, it’s not real, I’m just crazy, of course that wasn’t rape, la, la, la, la, la’ my voice would be silenced almost instantly. I know how much people cling onto their token exited womyn and I know that if a good chunk of those people found out their token was just a bit… crazy, then they’d be gone in an instant. (Newsflash – we’re all a little crazy because trauma is horrific, we just hide it because we know how quickly we’d be silenced if you got even the briefest glimpse of that 😉 )
It’s one of the most difficult parts of being a trauma survivor; accepting that our experiences actually count as trauma. Even if we can get past the point where we insist that our memories aren’t real and we must just be making them up (which we usually reach because our brains unrelentingly throw flashbacks at us until we do reluctantly accept they’re real – which yes, painful) we still then have to try and acknowledge those experiences as being abusive and that’s where we get especially good at denial and loopholes and excuses and justifications. You know all that victim-blaming nonsense? Well trust me, no one is better at it than survivors ourselves. We’re capable of finding excuses and loopholes and justifications in just about every single scenario – and of course, this only applies to ourselves. I’ve never seen another survivor question her sisters, only her own experiences. What’s true for our sisters simply isn’t true for ourselves. We’d never, ever think of telling a survivor sister that her trauma doesn’t count, that her experiences weren’t abusive, but holy shit are we happy to tell ourselves that.
‘If I just hadn’t pissed him off.’
‘If I’d just kept the door locked.’
‘It can’t be rape, I was just a whore.’
‘It was just a job.’
‘Well, I mean, I was drunk.’
‘I kept going back…’
‘I chose to go into that relationship.’
‘I chose it.’
‘It wasn’t that bad anyway, that’s not real rape, that’s not real abuse.’
‘I’m not a survivor, that’s taking away from real survivor experiences, I’m a disgusting person for claiming their words.’
‘Real abusive relationships don’t get that violent that quickly.’
We’re full of excuses and loopholes and justifications; excuses and loopholes and justifications we’d never impose on anyone else.
The simple truth is, despite logically knowing what my experiences amount to, despite knowing how others view them, despite me telling any other survivor with a similar past that it’s abuse, despite the way I talk on this blog – I don’t believe I’m a survivor, not really. I can’t really believe that my experiences are abuse.
And that’s where my sticking point is. I can’t accept my trauma as trauma. I can’t accept abuse as abuse, at least for myself.
Except maybe, maybe with my ex. I’m too lazy to come up with a pseudonym so here I am naming and shaming. Except maybe with Dom. (This isn’t the ex I spoke about here – this is the one after, my last ex.)
Something with Dom leaves me catching myself, leaves me questioning my own words. He’s the only one out of a multitude of perpetrators where I find myself thinking, well, maybe it was abuse?
I think it’s partly because I realised, on some level, at the time that he was abusive.
I remember about three years into the relationship, I ran a session at a Summer Camp around healthy relationships with a colleague. I already knew all the ‘red flags’ for abusive relationships, heck, I helped prepare the session and write out the information. But for some reason, on that day, looking at all the flipcharts with all the red flags up there, something clicked and I started really questioning what I’d be leaving that safe space for, what I’d be going home to. I ended up talking with that colleague afterwards, gently questioning the possibility that I actually was in an abusive relationship. I very quickly backed away from it; it was nowhere near safe enough for me to question it at the time, but the seed had been planted. It was possibly there beforehand, but that’s the first clear moment I remember questioning if Dom was abusing me.
I tried to leave Dom a few times, it never really worked out that well for me, but I knew, I knew on some level I needed to get out. I broke up with him at the end of November/start of December 2011 and I finally escaped him completely May 2012. The sheer fact that I was able to leave him means that on some level, I really did know he was abusive, I really did know that he was hurting me, I really did know my life was at risk.
And that’s why, I think, he has to be my starting point when it comes to healing. He’s the only one I can even slightly recognise as being abusive. And that skill, that ability to recognise abuse for what it is is undoubtedly gonna be a key part of my healing. How am I ever supposed to heal if I can’t even see my trauma as trauma?
I instinctively know that once I can very clearly see Dom as abusive; that I can have that fact clear and stable in my mind, that I can recognise those behaviours for what they are, then I’ll be able to apply that same thinking to the rest of my experiences, slowly but surely.
I just instinctively know that this is where I need to start. Which I fucking hate because yes, I’m still fucking terrified of him. I still wake up from nightmares, drenched in sweat, nightmares that feature nothing but him. I’m still constantly terrified he’s going to track me down somehow, even if I know he’s engaged to someone else, even if I know he has no idea where I am. Even the mere thought of him freezes me in fear. I broke up with him four years ago around now; I’ve been completely safe from him since May 2012, but I’m still just so scared of him; still just as scared as if he was right here.
But I frustratingly know that this is what I need to do, that he has to be my starting point. Gah.
I decided, yesterday, that I’m finally gonna read Why Does He Do That? I have a feeling it’s gonna have some of the answers I need.