Five Years Free

It’s been five years.  I don’t even know how to quite process that.  Five years.

For the first time, I’m not anxious, not really.  Usually, in the weeks running up to this date, I’m so hyper-aware of it, I find my anxiety is building more and more as it gets closer and the flashbacks get worse and worse.  But I have to say, this year, I’m just not really feeling it so much.  I’m aware it’s there and, as I said last year, there’s really traumatic memories involved, but I’m just not feeling the same sense of panic and emptiness and fear that I’ve felt in previous years around this date.

I guess, maybe, it’s because I’m doing better?

I know I’ve had a rough patch, the DWP will always throw me into a rough patch and I’ve really been suffering the past few weeks, but overall, I have been doing a little better.  Or, at least, I’ve been able to process a lot of trauma and do a lot of that whole ‘healing’ thing and as a result, I’ve been able to get a lot of things straighter and clearer in my mind.

I’ve found my voice, as a result, has gotten so much clearer too.  My voice doesn’t shake quite as much, my hands don’t hesitate when I’m typing quite as frequently when it comes to saying words like trafficking, rape, domestic abuse, incest.  I’m not hesitating, I’m not doubting myself.  For years, even if on some very logical, objective level I’ve known the words were real and relevant and applied to me, I’ve doubted myself so much.  I’ve always had that moment where a pit of guilt in my stomach bubbles over.  How dare I use those words?  How dare I say such horrible things about my family and people who (supposedly) cared for me?  How dare I take words away from real survivors?  I have no right to use these words.  It’s taken me such a long time to believe them, to really believe them.  To fully understand their weight and how they apply to me.

I guess, I’m finally starting to reach a point where I can truly put the blame and the shame and the guilt where it belongs.  I’m finally starting to reach a point where I can see that I was a victim.  That they victimised a child, a traumatised young woman.  That they did these things to me.  That I’m not the one that made them happen; either through my own actions or ‘bad’ behaviour or through some weird twist of fate that deemed me nothing more than a ‘whore’ and deserving of everything that happened to me.

I’m not there completely, not yet, I still have those moments of doubt, those moments where the guilt bubbles up inside me.  But I am getting there and I really have moved so far in the last few years.

I think, in all honesty, one of the most important things I’ve done in the past five years is focus on me.  Which is odd, considering how much of a class based theorist I am.  You’d think I’d’ve done more than this blog to try and reach out, do more for women like me.  But I couldn’t and it was right that I didn’t.  For a start, I crashed in a seriously spectacular way five years ago today and even if I wanted to do more for others I just couldn’t.  Immediately after exiting I was a mess (as I discussed a little in this post).

I was in such a severe dissociated state that I barely remember anything of those weeks, months.  I remember that I spent the first night just sitting in my friend’s flat.  Just staring, barely even blinking, at the wall.  I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t sleep.  All I could think about was how much I wished I was dead.  That was a recurring theme for those months, really.  I was basically just an empty shell and I wished for nothing more than death.  Weirdly, I never actually tried to kill myself at that point in my life.  Which is odd considering how much I wanted it.  I’d like to say that there was some innate survival instinct in me that recognised the magnitude of exiting, the freedom and the potential life that came with that.  But to be honest, I was probably just so empty and running so much on auto-pilot that I barely had the strength to even just kill myself.

The one thing I remember more than anything was just how alone I felt.  I wasn’t alone, not really.  People who really truly cared about me had helped me escape, they’d saved my life.  I played a role, of course, I had to want to leave, I had to want to accept their help, but without them I simply wouldn’t be here now.  But, I still just felt so alone.  I had ‘support workers’, but I didn’t feel like I had friends any more.  I was hiding out in a hotel for the three weeks immediately after escaping and I just felt so alone.  I had a few friends come and visit me there, though they were distant friends, old friends.  Friends who had no real clue about what was happening to me, why I was really in that hotel.  I may have let a few details slip, but they didn’t really know.  My closest friends, the friends I considered to be my ‘family’, they were absent.

I understand, actually.  Dealing with trauma is never easy, even if it’s someone else’s and they were all young.  I mean, we were all in our early-mid 20’s and while they were all experienced workers, none of them had ever really dealt with anything like me.  I understand why they kept their distance, why they didn’t know what to say, how to talk to me.  I understand why my old ‘support worker’ had to take me to them, why they never came to me.  I don’t really blame them, I don’t know if I would have wanted to be around me either.  But, understanding doesn’t stop just how much it hurt.  I felt so abandoned.  They were a big reason why I escaped in the first place.

Before them, I’d never really had real friends.  I’d never had anyone that really cared about me or had taken the time to try and understand me and my life.  And while some of them were older friends and had been around for a long time and while it is possible I had people that cared about me before that point, well, frankly, I’d never felt the same.  Not because I didn’t care about them, not really, but because I couldn’t let myself.  I couldn’t let myself care about anyone or anything else and I couldn’t let anyone care about me.  I’ve had so many people tell me that they care about me, that they love me, but that always resulted in my getting hurt.  So I stopped letting people in.  Until them.  Until that group of friends showed me so much love and care.

It gave me a taste.  It gave me a taste of freedom.  It gave me a taste of love.  It gave me a taste of mattering.  It gave me a taste of things I had never, ever had.  And it was them I had in mind when I finally made the decision to leave.  I didn’t want to be alone and closed off and hurt any more.  I wanted friends, a family, I wanted to be cared for and able to care for others.  I wanted a ‘normal’ life.

But then they backed off and I was alone and heart broken and hurting so much.  To have one of the biggest reasons you exited in the first place taken away from you so soon after actually exiting.  It really fucking hurts.  And it became my biggest reason to go back.  What was the point in escaping to a life of loneliness and emptiness and hurt?  I had that where I was and I also didn’t have incredibly violent people searching for me.  What was the point in trying?

I understand their reaction and distance, but it really did hurt.

Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, the hotel and the months after.  The sum up is that I was a complete fucking mess for a really long time and even if I wanted to do more, do whatever I could to help and support other women like me, I simply couldn’t at the time and I wouldn’t have been able to for most of the last five years.

And the simple truth is, it’s good that I didn’t.

Now, I have so much fucking admiration for the exited women that throw themselves right out there.  Who have devoted their lives to helping and supporting other women to exit, to campaigning, to setting up safe houses, to setting up amazing organisations.  I just have so much respect for them and I’m so in awe of their courage and their strength.  But it’s not something I could have done straight away and it’s not something I should have done straight away.  And I have to say, that part of me does worry about some of these amazing women, I see how much they hurt and they struggle and it sometimes makes me so sad that they never had the chance to heal.

I’m not saying I did it better, I’m not saying I did it the right way, I’m not saying that these women are stupid (like I’d ever say that?) for putting their work before their own healing and recovery.  I’m saying that it definitely wasn’t the right thing for me and I’m saying that I do have some concern for my sisters who I see struggling now.

I’m not stupid, I know that not everyone was as lucky as me.  I know that not everyone has the chance of exiting and getting good therapy, with an experienced trauma therapist (or somehow, magically, even a therapist with a lot of experience in working with prostituted women) straight away.  I was very lucky in that regards.

Really lucky, actually.  Lucky because it has given me the chance to really try and process and heal from some of that trauma.  So many women have processed and healed from their work, but I just couldn’t do that.  I wasn’t strong enough to do that.  And now, now that I’m five years from exiting, I’m glad that I didn’t.  Therapy and healing and processing trauma has made me so much stronger and more determined than I was five years ago.  I know that as and when I’m ready to go into that kind of work, (Which seems almost certain to me, if not trafficking and prostitution directly then at least some support work around other women who have experienced trauma.) I’ll be in a much more stable and capable place than I’ve ever been before, I know that I’ll be able to do that work and do it to the best of my ability.

I’ve done similar work before and each and every time I’ve just ended up burning out and quitting/leaving because I’ve just not been able to take it, especially not with the weight of my own ongoing trauma.  Looking after myself first and foremost has put me in a position where I know I can spend the rest of my life doing what I can for other women.  My future plans belong to another post, though.

It’s been an incredibly long journey and I’m nowhere near done yet.  In reality, I’ve only had a handful of EMDR sessions (again, the detail for this belongs in another post) but already they’ve made such a fundamental difference to my life and I know that with more sessions and more of a focus on processing and dealing with trauma will make such a difference to my life and put me on track for that future.

I’m in such a better place than I was five years ago and not only because five years and one day ago I was still being trafficked by my family and having the crap beaten out of me by my ex.  I’m in such a better place, mentally and emotionally as well as physically.  And for the first time in my life, I actually believe that not only is this gonna stay the case, but I’m gonna end up in a even better place.

RS.

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This Shit is Hard

Healing from trauma, regardless as to what that trauma is, is hard.  It’s not even easy to put into words just how hard this work is.  It requires so much strength and energy and time.  I’ve been trying to ‘heal’ on and off for years; all my earlier attempts were completely unsuccessful, trying to heal from trauma while that trauma is still ongoing is nearly impossible, especially if your mind has successfully dissociated to the point where you can’t even remember all aspects of your trauma, even trauma that is still happening or the fact that it’s still happening.  This time around, I’ve been working on this whole healing thing for about five years, since I exited/escaped.  And as a result, these last five years have been complete and utter crap.

Trauma itself has such a massive effect on the mind and mental health; the brain works in such a way where it will do anything and everything to keep you alive, the thing it values almost the most is your own survival.  Our brains, however, aren’t especially good at their job.  They can and will fuck you up in the name of your own survival.  And well, it worked, for me, but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t incredibly fucked up and still am.

Basically, that’s what flashbacks and trauma related memories and pain and suffering is.  Your brain is trying to give you a wake up call, trying to tell you that something is and was wrong and that ultimately you need to deal with it or everything is gonna be fucking terrible forever.  A lot of people try and silence this, distance themselves from it, either through dissociation, drugs, alcohol, convincing themselves they love it and it’s a choice, self-harm, eating disorders etc. etc. etc. they try and funnel this pain into something else or just try and numb it out altogether.

I’m no professional, this is just my best understanding after everything my therapist has taught me over the years.  Basically, the brain gives you flashbacks so you can process the trauma because unprocessed trauma will try and eat you alive.  The brain gives you flashbacks and other symptoms of trauma so you can realise, on some level, just how much of a mess your life is and how unsafe people in your life are and how you need to try and get away from those people.

That’s what happened to me, slowly, in stages, but it’s what happened.  When I was fourteen, I started getting flashbacks.  I was still in a really fucked up point of my life, still being raped and abused on a regular basis by both my mum and my step-dad (despite them being separated at that point, though that’s definitely another post) and I was still being trafficked.  Dissociation is a wonderful and weird thing, though.  At this point in my life, I only really knew a few things consciously, clearly and consistently.  I knew I was depressed, I knew I was having regular panic attacks, I knew I was self-harming, I knew I wasn’t eating, I knew I was drinking (and probably too much), I knew that I was always high and always needed to be high, I knew I was engaging in a lot of dangerous things (again, that’s another post), but what I didn’t know was why.  I had no memory of the things that had happened to me and my dissociative disorder was so severe that I equally had no recollection of what was still happening to me.  It was like, the me at school, the me during the day, was a completely different me than the one who went home and got sold to several men.  One me couldn’t really, properly remember the other me and her experiences.

As I said, I got my first flashback when I was 14, a memory of what I now know to be the first time that my step-dad raped me, when I was 8.  From there, I started to get more and more flashbacks about him and also about my maternal grandfather/my father.  I still had no conscious recollection of the fact that my mum was also raping and abusing me and selling me.  However, I did have flashbacks and memories that made it clear that my mum knew what my step-dad was doing to me and by the age of 16, after a few suicide attempts, some serious self-harm, numerous interventions by mental health services which were sooooo useful (if anyone has any experience of CAMHS you’ll know what I mean) and some seriously bad mental health, full on crisis days, I decided I couldn’t deal with any of it any more.  I couldn’t deal with knowing that my mum would let someone do that to me.  I couldn’t deal with the increased numbers of arguments with my mum, all the yelling, all the times she hit me, burnt me.  I couldn’t deal with being treated like a slave all the time (if only I knew back then the extent of that), doing all the housework, doing everything in that house.  I’d had enough and on my 16th birthday, dead on at midnight, I packed a few things into my school bag (mostly school books because I apparently still valued my education?!), called my dad to pick me up and went to my grandma’s house.

I got there and after long argued conversations over the phone with my mum, which included her telling them about my step-dad, with a typical my mum spin, namely that I’m a giant whore and I fucked her boyfriend, I finally got told that my grandma would think about me staying and both her and my dad kicked me out, past midnight, on to the streets and told to come back after school the next day.

The flashbacks built up to the point where I was able to realise enough and process enough of my trauma to try and make myself safe.  It didn’t work, not completely.  I had limited contact with my mum in the following years, but I was still being trafficked and hurt by her and her boyfriend, especially as he lived just round the corner from my grandma.  While my brain put me through hell with the flashbacks, it was also trying to ensure my own survival.

It did the same five years ago.  In the months prior to my eventually escaping and exiting, my mental health went to shit.  I was getting constant flashbacks and this time not just limited to Paul and the things he did to me (memories of which eventually included some aspects of trafficking).  I basically got the full play-by-play of my entire life.  I eventually reached the point where my mum had been and still was trafficking me, I could remember client after client after client, I could remember my mum raping me and abusing me and hurting me, I started to make connections between the way my family and clients treated me and what my now ex was doing to me at that time.  Despite putting me through absolute hell and crashing my mental health to a point where it had never been before, I was learning the lessons my brain was trying to teach me.  I wasn’t safe.  I wasn’t safe with my now ex.  I wasn’t safe with my family.  My life was in danger and it always had been.

This massive crash eventually made me make a decision.  I had to leave, I had to escape.  I had to cut off almost everyone and everything I’d ever known to keep myself safe.  I had to not only make myself safe but I had to process the trauma and the memories and the pain or it’d kill me just as surely as they would.

I did leave, five years ago next week.  And it was because of the flashbacks, it was because of what my own brain was doing to me that I did.

My brain screwed me over, though.  It might have saved my life, but it’s now left me in a place where I cannot deny my own trauma.  Where I can only dissociate myself from those memories to a certain extent.  Where I know that I have to deal with or die from it.

I still get flashbacks, I still have dissociation, I still get severe anxiety and depression, I still can’t go outside without getting so panicky, feeling that everyone around me is either going to hurt me or has already hurt me.

This post has gone so off course.  How do I always end up rambling so much?

I’ve been working on healing and processing trauma for the last five years, very seriously during very intense therapy.  And it’s not easy.  I’ve spent the past five years feeling like I’m fighting for my life, even if I’m not actually physically fighting for my life any more.  Trauma work is so draining and so painful.  One of the only real ways to process trauma is to relive it, fully, to be able to process what it was we experienced and what we were actually feeling at the time.  Not relying on dissociation or numbing techniques.  Really feeling it and then really processing it and then really healing from it.  And that takes time, especially if you have a complex and extensive history of trauma.  It takes time and it’s painful and you will hurt almost as much as you did when you were going through it.

I’ve been working so hard for the last five years and I’ve actually made so many significant steps, but I’m not done yet, I’m nowhere near done.  Most of those five years were focused on just staying alive, building trust and safety, surviving the flashbacks and the suicidal ideation and the sheer mental hell that trauma leaves you in.  I’ve only really been working seriously and consistently on traumatic memories for the last year or so, now doing EMDR to be able to really process them.

I need more time, I just need more time to be able to carry on working.  For the first time in my life, I can see a future, I can see something other than what I’ve always known.  I can see that ‘better’ that so many people keep promising me.  But I need time, I need time to work on the trauma, to process it and heal from it.  Bit by bit, I am working and even just working on the smallest aspect starts to make a real and noticeable difference to my life, but there’s still time to go before I am a real, functioning human being again (well for the first time, let’s face it).

I know that with a few more months of EMDR (if there’s anything even vaguely close to being a ‘miracle cure’ for trauma, this is it, seriously) I can be in such a different place than that I’m in now.  Already I’m starting to see so many changes; I’m more confident, more assertive, I’m starting to be able to make eye contact, I’m starting to be able to communicate more clearly, I’m starting to value myself, see myself as worthy, I’m starting to think of the future in a way I just never have before, I’m starting to be able to go outside more often without breaking down with fear and terror of getting hurt again, I’m starting to be able to eat more consistently again – even in front of other people.  But I’m not there yet, these progressions are time-sensitive, it doesn’t take a lot to knock me back again, especially because, in the short-term, the work I’m doing to reach these milestones is the exact thing that will knock me back again.

I actually really believe that I can do this.  I can see the me in a few months time being so incredibly different from the me I am now.  I’m working so incredibly hard.  There aren’t even words to fully explain just how hard this work is.  It’s like you have to completely break yourself down, destroy yourself over and over and over and over and over again in order to really closely examine those broken pieces before you can even attempt to put yourself back together.

It hurts, it hurts so badly.  Each time I do trauma work I’m left suffering.  I’m left with incredibly strong, vivid flashbacks; the kind where it’s almost impossible to ground yourself, the kind where it’s so hard to hold on to the here and now and convince yourself it’s not really happening, that it’s over and you’re safe.  I’m left with such severe dissociation that I just lose track of everything around me; I can’t keep track of time or conversations or TV plot lines or just about anything.  I have little to no focus and I basically become utterly useless.  I’m left so depressed and anxious; I can’t sleep, I can’t make myself go outside, I can’t eat properly, I can’t find the motivation or energy to do much of anything.  My suicidal ideation and my thoughts of self-harm increase massively.  You can’t stare into hell without it looking back at you.  You can’t focus on your own memories of extreme trauma and pain without feeling at least some of that pain and hurt in the here and now.  In the long-term, this therapy is making such a massive difference to my life, but in the short-term, immediately after sessions and for some time afterwards there’s nothing but pain.  That’s the price you have to pay to heal from trauma.  You have to heal or it’ll kill you, but the pain of doing it can be so severe that it feels like it’s gonna kill you, regardless as to how good your therapist is.  And I have a damn good therapist, who makes sure I take it at the right pace and I’m as grounded as possible afterwards, but that doesn’t change the fact that just doing this work is so beyond painful.  The long-term effects though, it does work, I really am working towards getting better.

I’m not better, I’m not even all that close to being better, but I’m getting there and I’m working on it and I just really need the time and the freedom and the support to do so.  And that leads me to the post I had every intention of writing with this and is now clearly going to be my next post, which will be posted tomorrow.

RS.

A Fresh Start

I am ready to have the upcoming
year bring me new life.

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? – Lundy Bancroft

This is another one of those kinda things that I just scorn at.  I don’t do self-care, I don’t do mindfulness, I don’t do hope, I don’t do future.

The thing is, when you spend your life being prostituted, abused, raped, used, manipulated, controlled; when nothing is yours, when you have no choices, no freedom, no rights, then you kinda give up on the whole ‘future’ thing.

I spent my life barely expecting to see the next sun rise, never mind the next month or the next birthday or the new year.  I didn’t plan any further ahead than I had to.  When I was forced to plan further ahead, I either made it up, not holding on to any real expectations or I just nodded along, not really expecting to be here when the time came, not really daring to hope.  I knew that at any moment I could come across an extra violent client, that my mother could completely lose control, that Dom would kill me, that I’d just give up, that I’d just become another statistic.  I never expected to see the next day, so I never planned any further ahead.

I lived my life in a way that reflected that, even after I exited.  I made sure that my flat was reasonably clean, that I never owned too many things, so once I was gone, there wouldn’t be too much for others to handle.  I always had my important paperwork organised so, again, it wouldn’t be too much for others to handle.  I made sure I always had a bag packed, ready to go, either back home or to just up and leave here if I needed to.  I had the number for the Cat Protection League in my phone, so I could ensure my cat was taken care of.  I always had a stash of pills on hand so I could check out any time I needed.  I’ve nearly always lived in a way so that if I don’t see that next sun rise, I’d never be too much hassle to anyone else.

I never made New Year’s Resolutions.  I never made plans for my birthday.  I never actively planned future career choices.  I refused to play ‘in five years time…’ style games.  I refused to engage with my therapist when she tried to get me to plan for the future.

It’s just not really a skill I have.  It’s an alien concept to me.  So often, it really does just feel like I come from an entirely different world; a world where futures don’t exist, a world where career options don’t exist, a world where needs and wants don’t exist and when it comes to engaging with this world I just feel lost and confused.  Plan for the future?  Why the fuck would I do that?  I’m probably going to die today.  It doesn’t matter anyway, this is all I’m ever gonna be.  I’m never getting out of here, so what’s the point?

I’m still slightly bemused each time I see the sun rise; even more bemused when I see a New Year come in or I reach another birthday.  I don’t quite understand how I got as old as I am.  I should have died by now.  Statistically I shouldn’t be alive.  Medically I shouldn’t be alive (I have technically died before now).  I just shouldn’t have made it this far and it’s always a little bewildering when I realise I have.  I’ve been free for nearly four years and I’m still utterly bewildered when that sun rises.  I’m still so surprised that I’ve somehow managed to survive another day.

So yeah, when it comes to hopeful little messages like this one, it’s hard to just not laugh.  A year?  An entire year?  Ha, like I’ll make it that far.

But then, I guess things are different now.  There’s no more pimps.  No more punters.  No more abusive boyfriends beating the crap out of me each day.  There’s just me.  And my girlfriend.  And my cat.  And the biggest risk out of those is, well, me.  (Though, the cat does have a tendency to try and trip me up!) 

My life has changed a lot, recently.  There’s the obvious, having escaped prostitution and escaped Dom, but it’s changed in so many other ways, too.  I built closer and stronger connections with my friends, I made new friends and allies, connected with my sisters – both survivor sisters and not, engaged more and more with radical feminist theory, started to find some level of joy in simple things, started a really healthy and positive relationship.  And all those changes have meant that, for once, I am actually planning for the future.  At least for the short-term.  I know where I want to move to.  I know what I want to go back to Uni. to study.  I know who I want to be with.

If I’m being honest, I think I’ve already had my ‘fresh start’.  It started the moment I decided to exit and simultaneously get away from Dom.  But I was so trapped in flashbacks and memories and trauma and pain that I could barely have that real ‘fresh start’.  I was stuck in a limbo.  No longer being prostituted or beaten or abused, but not healing or moving forwards, either.  I was just stuck in a limbo.  Constantly teetering on that edge.  Constantly on the verge of returning to my own life, because whilst it might have been so horrific, beyond what words can describe, it was at least something I knew.  And this world?  This isn’t something I know.  I understand the language of abuse and threats and violence and trauma.  I don’t understand the languages of love and compassion and care and freedom.  But I’m learning.  Good Goddess, I’m learning.

It’s only really been the last year or so that I’ve been able to make any real changes at all, that I’ve really had something that resembled a ‘fresh start’, that things have actually been getting better for me.  I can’t really remember what it was that changed.  I know I was working on an incredibly hard memory; a memory that left me with so much guilt and shame.  A memory I couldn’t deal with and I was more than prepared to just kill myself over it.  As far as I know, the people around me had no idea how badly I was doing.  I was hiding my suicidal ideation from everyone.  It was so far past suicidal ideation.

I don’t know what got me out of that.  I honestly don’t.  I somehow managed to forgive myself for Nicky’s death, which is surprising considering I still blame myself so, so much.  I at least stopped holding myself quite so accountable.  Honestly, I don’t even know, I don’t know what got me out of it.

But things changed quickly once I was out of it.  I was really engaging in therapy, in healing work.  I was building more and more connections.  Making new friends; friends who would persuade me to stretch out even further and build even more connections.  I started a relationship (which is something that I never, never would have been able to do before).  I even started doing things like travelling.  Meeting up with large groups of people.  Going away for the weekend with people I barely knew.

I already had my new start.  Whilst last year was filled with terrible, terrible things.  With so much pain.  So many flashbacks.  Even though I barely even made it through that year, considering how close I was to either killing myself or going back.  Despite everything, last year was quite possibly the best year of my life.  (Holy fuck, I have low standards.)

I still might not really believe in the concept of ‘futures’, but I think I might actually kinda have hope, this year.

Who’d’ve thought it possible?

RadSurvivor.

Is This All Just Your Imagination?

He’s trying to convince me that I’m delusional.
But I know I’m fine.  He really did those things.

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? – Lundy Bancroft

Gaslighting was Dom’s speciality, there’s no denying that.  It got worse as I was living with him, I couldn’t get away from it, it was constant.  Whilst I was jumping from hostel to hostel, from sofa to sofa, from here to there, it was easier, I had time in between to try and put things together.  But when he moved in and everything got worse.  I had no time to think, no time to clear things up or put it in order.  All I had was the ‘reality’ that he imposed on me.

Everything that happened, the few things that he admitted had actually happened and he hadn’t simply convinced me that I was crazy and I imagined it, were my fault.  It was me pushing him over that edge, it was me being the abusive one, him merely defending himself from my vicious, horrible attacks.

I really was so convinced for so long that I was the abusive one, that he really was just defending himself from me.  That I hurt him and he was just doing anything he could to make it stop.

I worked really intently on a memory with my therapist, this week, one that to me just seemed so clear that I really was the abusive one, that he really was just defending himself.  I’d been at uni. all day, I lived really far away because I simply hadn’t been able to afford to move when I started.  It meant leaving at 6:30am each day.  I’d spent the day in uni. then went to work.  I didn’t get home till 11:30pm.

The moment I walked in, he started.  I had barely walked into the living room.  Hadn’t even had time to take my coat off or my shoes off or put my bag down.  He started yelling at me, talking about how disgusting and messy the flat was, said that just because I was a crack whore didn’t mean we both had to live like one.  Said how disgusting and lazy and useless I was.  Before I’d gone to bed the night before, I knew I’d cleaned the entire kitchen, knew I’d washed all the pots, knew I’d tidied the living room of plates and food wrappers, I knew I’d done it.  He kept going on and on about how disgusting everything was.  I snapped.

I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was sit down and chill with a brew for half an hour before I got on to writing an essay.  I was so mad at him.  I knew I’d washed all the pots but there he was, sat on the sofa, surrounded by what seemed to be every single plate in the kitchen, several crisp and chocolate and cake wrappers and leftovers from the chippy as well as crumpled up tissues everywhere.  He was still playing his game, he hadn’t even paused it to yell at me.  I knew he’d been playing it all day, making more and more of a mess around himself.

I yelled back, calling him lazy and useless and calling him the one thing that I knew upset and hurt him the most, the one thing I knew he’d have the biggest reaction to, but I was just so upset and angry and exhausted.  I said that if he wasn’t such a fat, lazy bastard he would have done some cleaning himself.  That I worked, that I paid the rent, that I bought the food, that I did all the cleaning and all he had to do was not make more mess.  Calling him ‘fat’ was the exact thing I shouldn’t have done.  He got so angry, actually paused his game, got off the sofa and beat the crap out of me.  Said if I was so disgusted by how fat he was then I was gonna hate this.  He dragged me by my hair to the bedroom, forced me to get undressed and raped me.  Deliberately letting all of his weight drop on top of me, smothering me with his body, hurting me as much as he could.  Repeating over and over that he didn’t care how fat he was, especially not if it pissed me off and disgusted me so much.  That I was gonna pay for calling him fat.

For years afterwards, whenever he brought it up, he repeatedly said it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had called him ‘fat’ and I believed him.  I believed that I pushed it, that I was the one that caused it all.  That I was so horrible and cruel and abusive for calling him that, that he was merely responding to my abusiveness.

My therapist made me see it a different way.  That he’d clearly been planning it all day.  He’d been coming up with ‘excuses’ and ‘justifications’ to hurt me.  That he made the decision to start yelling at me the moment I walked in, that I just wouldn’t have been able to win.  She’s right, I wouldn’t have been able to.  If I hadn’t been so exhausted and hadn’t snapped, a few different things would have happened, but they all would have resorted in him hurting me.  I’d’ve apologised and started cleaning but he’d say it was too late for apologies and attack me anyway.  Or he’d get mad because I’d end up not cleaning well enough or quick enough (either by his standards or because I was too exhausted to do much better) or I’d’ve begged for the opportunity to do it in the morning, which would have just pissed him off, or I’d’ve asked if it was OK if I just sit down for a few minutes first, which again would have pissed him off.  From the moment I walked in, I wasn’t going to win, he’d already decided that I wasn’t going to win.  I knew he was going to end up hitting me that night and I knew he was going to end up raping me.  I knew he’d been planning it all day, I knew it from the moment I saw the tissues.  I knew exactly what they were.  I knew he’d been sat on that sofa jacking off to the idea of hurting me.  He had planned it and he’d found an ‘excuse’ and nothing I could have said or done would have changed it.  It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d called him ‘fat’ or not, he was gonna hurt me anyway.

My calling him ‘fat’ might have been out of order, it might have been a low blow, but it wasn’t abusive, not really.  It was the first and only time I ever called him ‘fat’, it wasn’t repeated, emotional and verbal abuse.  I didn’t make him stand on the scales, weigh himself in front of me each day, criticise his clothing choices, point out fat rolls in various tops or say things like ‘do you really want your friends to see you when you look that fat and disgusting?’, I didn’t criticise his food choices, I didn’t control what he ate – either deliberately starving him or forcing him to eat more than he wanted (the more weight you put on, the more you’re shamed for it, the more likely you are to deliberately isolate yourself), I didn’t do any of the things he did to me for five years (all of the above), I said the word ‘fat’ once, which hardly constitutes abuse.

It still scares me that I am the abusive one, though.  I really carefully and callously and maliciously went for what I knew would hurt him the most, I thought it through, I deliberately went for it and I’m scared that does make me abusive.  I was knowingly going for the most pain I could.

Even if it was abusive, abuse doesn’t justify abuse.  In any scenario, with any two people, one calling the other ‘fat’ doesn’t justify violent physical attacks and rape.  It just doesn’t.

That was one of his attacks on me that he acknowledged, that he admitted was real, that had actually happened.  But he massively twisted it to put me in the wrong, to make me the abusive one, to make me the bad one, to put the blame on me.  He twisted it so he was only defending himself after I called him the most hurtful, painful thing I could think to call him.

Most of the things he did to me, though, he’d outright deny were real, that they happened at all.  Honestly, I probably made it easier for him to do this with my already messed up mental health from the trafficking, incest and other abuse long before I even met him.  I have a dissociative disorder which means that things like keeping track of time, events, knowing whether something really happened or not and chronology is really difficult for me.  It meant that, in general, keeping track of everything was difficult for me and with his deliberate gaslighting and manipulation and his lies, it left me doubting everything so, so much.

Even when I had physical proof – scars, bruises, scratches, cuts, semen stains in my underwear and on my body, he’d find a way to twist it and convince me I was wrong.  ‘Of course you wanted to, baby’, ‘Baby, you’re a self-harmer, what makes you think I did it?’, ‘You’re losing it, you probably just fell over again, you know how clumsy you are’, ‘Don’t you remember you fell down the stairs?’  I’d be so, so sure it was him, I knew with every bone of my body it was him, but half the time I couldn’t remember the actual event and the rest of the time he was able to convince me I was just remembering wrong.

The time he pushed me down the stairs because I threatened to leave him became me being so upset I missed a step and fell.

Every time he hit me or beat me became me being clumsy and walking in to something.

Every time he screamed at me or threw things at me or did anything, I was just remembering wrong.

He used my past trauma against me.  Convinced me that I was just a messed up, crazy survivor who was projecting her past on to the here and now.  That I was just seeing abuse everywhere, even where there wasn’t abuse.  That I was blurring the past with the now and seeing my step-dad and my mum and my family when I should have been seeing him.  I really believed he was right, that I really was just a crazy survivor projecting and misinterpreting and who was just so sensitive and broken and easily triggered that I saw abuse when it just wasn’t there.  A crazy survivor who was self-harming, hurting myself and then blaming him – even if my logical mind could see that it wasn’t even remotely possible for me to make bruises like that, especially not considering that my usual form of self-harm is cutting.

Staying sane was nearly impossible.  I didn’t know which way was up.  I didn’t know what was happening.  I didn’t know if I was being abused by a violent man or if I was just so crazy I was imagining it all, even hurting myself to fulfil those beliefs.  It took me a long time to be able to consistently hold on to the belief that he really was hurting me, that I wasn’t just crazy.  It probably wasn’t until the last six months or so of the ‘relationship’ that I was really able to acknowledge that he was hurting me, even if I wasn’t yet fully able to acknowledge it as abuse.

I know why he did it.  He couldn’t be held responsible for what he was doing if I was either causing it or imagining it all.  I had no reason to leave him.  I definitely couldn’t go to the police.  The more I believed it wasn’t happening, the less likely he was to get in trouble.  The less likely he’d be able to carry on doing what he was doing.

But there was nothing wrong with me.  I really wasn’t just crazy or delusional.  He was lying to me, he was manipulating me, he was justifying what he did to me.  I wasn’t just imagining things or making things up; he really was hurting me and he really was abusing me.

It’s still hard to keep my memories together and keeping them in reality.  It’s still hard to see the whole situation and not cut it down to where I can blame myself, where I can see myself as the abusive one.  There’s a massive difference between me coming home and calling Dom ‘fat’ and him retaliating because I was so abusive and me coming home, being yelled and screamed at, being criticised and belittled whilst knowing that for the last few years I’d been responsible for everything and like all working class women juggling more than is feasibly possible and when I snap and retaliate being violently beaten and raped in punishment.

It’s still hard to not even re-read that and fight and argue with myself.  What right did I have to call him ‘fat’?  That surely is my being abusive, right?  If any woman told me that their boyfriend called them fat, wouldn’t I say that was abusive?  So why isn’t it abusive if I said it to him?  I know power structures play into this; women are much more shamed and belittled and humiliated in relation to their bodies than men are, but that still doesn’t really make it OK?

Or does it not even matter whether it was OK or not?  Does it not matter on the basis that he verbally attacked me first, that he set up a situation where he could beat me and rape me?  That even if my calling him ‘fat’ wasn’t OK, his reaction was extreme and out of proportion?

Trying to keep it all in place in my head is still difficult at times.  I so often find myself questioning if it really did happen or if I really am just crazy.  And if it did happen, was I really the one to blame?

Trying to untie the knots that he left my mind in with his gaslighting now is one of the hardest parts of all of this healing process; especially considering he wasn’t the only one that left knots in there.

RadSurvivor.

Loosening His Grip

It’s been a while since I’ve wrote here and that’s been for a few reasons.  It’s because I’ve not been doing well, because I struggled massively over Christmas and the New Year.  It’s because I’ve been doing well; I’ve got a taste for happiness and a sense of safety and I’ve not wanted to poke the hornets nest and ruin that for myself.  It’s because I’ve honestly just not known what to write.

For the past few months, I’ve barely been focusing on the prostitution, the pornography, the trafficking; any of the areas of trauma I set up this blog to focus on.  Part of it’s been deliberate, I’ve pushed my mind away from those thoughts, from those memories, from those experiences; I can and will do anything to deny to myself that it’s all real, even if that’s counter-intuitive to my own healing and my own survival.  Instead, for the past few months, my brain has felt the need to focus overwhelmingly on my past abusive relationships, on the rapes and the abuse and the torture and the stalking and the captivity that my ex partners put me through and whilst that has involved pornography and prostitution, I’ve kept my mind well away from that.  It’s not surprising, to be honest, not now that I’m in a relationship with someone who truly loves and cares for me and treats me with respect and compassion; I’m noticing more and more the differences and the more I notice them, the more I’m starting to see just how abusive those past relationships were.

Whilst I’ve been half aware of it for the last year and a half, the last few weeks I’ve realised something more and more and it’s something I’m so deeply ashamed of, it’s something that I feel I should have been long free of, it’s something I feel like just shouldn’t be there any more, it’s something that feels like a gross betrayal of the woman I love.

Just over four years ago, the end of November/early December 2011, I broke up with my ex-fiancé.  Not that it made much difference at the time, our relationship was officially over, but he refused to move out, refused to give me my key back (and like fuck could I afford to change the locks) and all it did was make him more violent and more open and vicious with his abuse.  He continued to rape me and took pleasure in telling me it was ‘now’ rape (as if it wasn’t before), that he was going to fuck me no matter what, that he enjoyed knowing he was raping me.  He told me he could do whatever he wanted to me, that I was just a worthless whore, that if I didn’t belong to him then I was worth nothing.  His messages were mixed; one moment I didn’t belong to him and I was a worthless whore, the next moment I still belonged to him and nothing was going to change that, not even me, that the only time I’d stop belonging to him was when I was dead.

I spent those months convinced that that point was quickly coming.  Dom (because why the fuck shouldn’t I name him?) was still around, still beating me, still raping me, still punishing me, still torturing me despite my having finally got the guts to break off the engagement that I never even agreed to and break up with him.  My traffickers had tracked me down and were completely back in my life, prostituting me out of my own flat and when they felt they could, dragging me back to where I’d always been prostituted before.

I never expected to survive, I never expected to escape.  I’d basically given up.  On the night I did escape, after having very, very reluctant conversations with friends, everything was a blur.  I remember clearly thinking I had a few choices and I barely had any time to make those choices – I knew my main trafficker, my mother, was going to be back in the morning.  I’d already gone through a day of hell.  I still don’t know how I survived that day.  I knew my choices were to wait for her to come back – to be dragged back into that world completely, to end up dying there just as I was always meant to.  Wait for her to come back and kill me out right, that she knew she was already losing control over me and that she’d never be able to control me in the same way again.  Kill myself and save myself all the trouble.   Or make that call, send that text, ask for the help I’d been offered and take a chance on escaping.  I don’t remember sending that text.  I don’t remember packing my bag.  I don’t even remember putting clothes on.  I just remember sitting in her car, very conscious of the fact I was bleeding and terrified it was gonna soak through to the seat.  I didn’t even really know where I was going or what I was doing.  Several times I nearly panicked, begged her to take me back, terrified of what my mum, Dom, my other traffickers would do if they found I wasn’t there.  But I was too frozen in fear, too numb, too stuck in my own head and dissociated to say a word.  I found myself out my best friend’s house and my life changed from that moment on.

I was in a hotel for three weeks at first; completely alone, my friends refused to visit me there and I barely had the energy to go visit them.  That first night, before I’d had a chance to change my number, Dom rang me, shouting and yelling at me for leaving without telling him, screaming at me because my mum was pissed and was blaming him and I was so close to breaking, so close to telling him where I was.  I completely dissociated and found the strength to hang up and take the SIM card out; the people that needed to contact me knew where I was.  I’m ashamed to admit I still have that SIM card (and my old email address), I could never bring myself to destroy it or throw it away; knowing my traffickers and Dom can still use it to contact me, get back into my head.  I know I should, I just haven’t been able to.

I was completely away from Dom, I still am.  I’ve been completely away from him and safe from him for nearly four years.  Except, in a lot of ways, I’m still not.  There’s still so many ties that haven’t been cut.  Ties that I’ve been too scared to look at, too scared to acknowledge, too scared to touch and do anything about.  They’re the emotional ties, the mental ties, the gas-lighting, the control he still has over me, the grip he still has on my life.

I’ve tried to deny it so many times, despite for the last few years being aware it’s there.  I’d insisted so many times that Dom was the least of my worries, that I wasn’t even remotely affected by what he’d done to me, that I was an exited woman – I couldn’t be worrying about an abusive relationship when I had so many other things on my plate.  But it wasn’t true and I knew it wasn’t true and pushing down those flashbacks and those memories and the consequences they had on me just made everything worse.  Around summer, 2014, things got really bad.  I was in a constant state of high anxiety, I was having constant flashbacks.  I was almost constantly curled up and scared and unable to move.  Every single sound left me breaking down completely.

I currently have a needlessly aggressive neighbour.  A neighbour who shouts and swears, slams doors and bangs on walls, throws things around and generally throws weekly tantrums.  Logically, I know him throwing tantrums has absolutely nothing to do with me and thankfully he’s living alone so I know there’s not a woman suffering in there, but without fail and especially throughout 2014 and the start of 2015 his actions would leave me in a complete mess.

That doesn’t even begin to describe what was happening for me, honestly.  Every time he started, I’d be left curled up in fear, completely unable to move, completely unable to make a noise myself, of any kind, terrified I’d make it worse.  I wasn’t even able to breathe properly because I was so terrified of making too much noise and making it worse.

Whilst my neighbour is an arsehole and needlessly aggressive and loud, I know I wasn’t responding to him, I was responding to Dom, I was stuck in flashbacks and I was stuck in the past.  I read a post on Tumblr, recently –

Men who slam doors and furniture are making sure you hear how much they want to hit you. – hmsindecision

and that’s exactly what my life with Dom was like.  Yeah, he frequently beat the shit out of me anyway, but before he reached that point it was a constant building up of slamming doors, punching walls, slamming furniture, throwing things, knowing it was leaving me terrified of what was to come.

Once those noises start, whether they’re Dom or my neighbour, all I could do was wish it was over.  Wish that he’d just hit me already so the cycle would stop and I didn’t have to live frozen whilst the noises carried on.

I started self-harming whenever my neighbour started, just so it would end the cycle, so I’d get the hurt that would leave me able to breathe again once the banging had started.  I felt like I couldn’t relax, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything again until he’d just got it over with and hit me.  But my neighbour wasn’t going to hit me, there was no Dom, all that was left was me and my self-harm.

That was my first realisation as to just how much control he still has over me, how much he’s still in my head, how much he still has a grip on me.  And yeah, I’m ashamed of it, I wish I could say I was over it, I wish I could say he was the least of my problems (which in a lot of ways is true when you have a history of being prostituted and being used in porn) but I’m not over it, he still has a lot of control over me.

In therapy this last Thursday, I completely froze when my therapist was asking about him.  She was trying to get me to admit he was abusive, that his behaviours were abusive.  I froze, I became panicky and it took me a long time to be able to say anything.  I was so terrified of saying anything negative about him, so terrified of what the consequences would be despite the fact that I’ve not seen him for nearly four years, despite the fact that I know I’m safe now, despite the fact that I know he won’t be able to find me.  He still has so much of a grip on me that I couldn’t even admit just how abusive he was in a private therapy session, where no-one else will ever know.  It’s taking so much self-control to not delete these words here, despite very few people knowing Rad-Survivor = me and despite very, very, very few of those people even knowing who Dom is.

The truth is, Dominic still has a massive grip on me, still has so much control over my life, still frequents my flashbacks and my nightmares.  I can’t just shrug it off and ignore it just because I have bigger things to deal with.  I have to deal with both.  I’m so ashamed to admit that he still has so much control over me after all this time.  I evidently took some of that control back by calling off the engagement, breaking up with him and eventually leaving the night I did, but he still does have so much of a grip on me and it’s really about time I started getting rid of it.  I can’t live my life constantly terrified he’s going to find me at any moment, I can’t live my life constantly terrified of consequences that aren’t even going to happen.  I deserve better than that.

Rad-Survivor.

Listening to Myself

One day, I might actually develop this skill of ‘listening to myself’; listening to what I need and what I want, listening to what my body needs and my body wants.  Right now, at the start of writing this, I’m supposed to be on public transport somewhere, on my way to therapy and well, let’s just say that I’m really, really not.

From the moment I woke up this morning, I knew on some level that I wasn’t making it outside today.  I kept light-heartedly saying things like ‘I’m just not ready for the outside world yet!’, thinking that maybe I just needed more coffee, more time to recover from nightmares, more time to wake up properly before leaving.  But it was more than that, it was much more than that and I ignored everything that I was telling myself.

The thing is, I have a distinct habit of avoiding therapy.  It’s hard work, especially as at the moment I’m in Stage Two of trauma therapy, which for those of you that don’t know, is when you go over the flashbacks and the memories and the trauma; where you release that pain and you ‘get it out’ so as to be able to process the memories, reintegrate them into a part of the brain where they’ll become less raw, less painful.  But today wasn’t just my normal habit of avoiding therapy, avoiding exposing myself to that pain, today was much more than that, but I ignored everything I was feeling.

Frustratingly, I actually wanted to go outside today.  Well, I’m never exactly over-eager at the prospect of therapy, but I am really trying and I was so determined today.  I want to evict Dom from my head and I know I need help doing that.  I was also supposed to meet up with a friend today and I really was looking forward to spending time with her and I can’t even bring myself to do that.  And that’s not even bringing into focus all of the little things I needed to do today like food shopping or other shopping or going to the Post Office etc.

I just really hate myself so much, I really needed to be able to get outside today and I just couldn’t do it.  I ignored everything I was feeling and tried to force myself to do it anyway.  I ended up having a huge panic attack when I got anywhere close to the door and actually leaving, a panic attack that could have been avoided if I’d just listened to myself and what I needed today.

I know why today’s especially so bad.  I usually have nightmares, that’s a given part of my life (at least for the moment), but they usually centre around my abusive relationships and incest, it’s not as often that I get nightmares about the actual trafficking (I guess my brain’s willing to limit at least some of the crap it puts me through – thanks brain) or at least I tend not to remember them quite as clearly when I wake up.

Today I did remember, and clearly and I know that’s exactly why I can’t face going outside today.  When you’ve spent the entire night remembering the multiple rapes and pains and traumas that a multitude of men have put you through, you don’t feel particularly inclined to be outside around men.  I mean, granted, I never feel safe around men; I know too much about the violence and the abuse that all of them are capable of to ever feel safe around men, but on days like today I just can’t face it.

After a while, their faces blur, their names long forgotten (if you ever knew them), they can be literally anyone.  Any man you pass on the street can be a former ‘client’, a john and if not one of yours, then probably someone else’s.  And that’s a fucking terrifying thought.  Knowing that there’s a chance that any man you walk past on the street is one of your rapists, or has at least jacked off to watching one of your rapes and that you’d never actually know because you can’t remember their faces.

I know that this is partially paranoia and C-PTSD, but it doesn’t change how terrified I am to even think of leaving and going outside, at least for today.  And the thing is, whilst it may well at least partially be mental health, it is something that’s happened before.  I’ve been stopped on the tram, asked if it’s me (using my old porn name), been told that he loves all my work, especially my very early work (said with a wink – both of us knowing he was talking about child porn).  I wasn’t able to leave the flat properly without having huge panic attacks for a long time after.

I know part of this is my own fault; I know that I haven’t moved anywhere near far enough away so it’s always, always, always gonna be a fear, I’m always gonna be looking over my shoulder.  But the thing is, my entire life is here.  I’ve moved far enough away to not be anywhere near them, I deliberately don’t go into the city centre, I know that this isn’t an area that any of them come near, at all and never have.  But I’m still close enough for ‘clients’, who quite often travelled quite far, mostly because my family offered ‘services’ most other local places didn’t, to be around and it terrifies me.  But my entire life is here.  Before I left/escaped, I had a therapist I felt I could trust, I have friends that became my family, I had a sense of security and safety in those things.  Even just moving the distance that I did felt like too much of a step.

I know that, one day, I’m gonna end up moving further away, to a completely different area so I don’t have to feel like I need to be always looking over my shoulder (we’re just gonna ignore the fact that I was sold around the country so I’m familiar enough with a good chunk of the cities in the UK) but right now, there’s a lot here that gives me stability and security and logically I am far enough away to be safe (at least I have been for the last three and a half years).

I don’t even know where I’m going with this any more.  I just know I’m far too scared to go outside right now and I can’t bring myself to do it without panicking.

I am just so frustrated with myself, though and I know in theory it’s not my fault; that today’s just a day where I have to listen to myself and accept where I’m at, but I am still just so frustrated.

I feel the need to force myself to be productive whilst I’m inside, at least, to clean the flat or something, because heh, I still suck when it comes to taking care of myself and my sense of self-worth is still so wrapped up in achieving something and being productive.

Rad-Survivor.

Finding My Healing Path

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.’

etc.

etc.

etc.

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.

Rad Survivor.