Earlier this year I went to a therapist. I was having trouble breathing correctly. I was having trouble leaving my house. I couldn’t connect properly with my brain. I couldn’t feel what I thought I should feel. I couldn’t write. I had been recently assaulted by an angry man on the street. I was walking to the bus. He was walking in the other direction. When we met, he raised a hand in the air and jerked it forward like he was going to backhand me, I flinched back. He laughed and called me a cunt whore, then he kept walking. I got on the bus, and I cried.
There are things that I don’t talk about much, but I’m going to talk about them now. Because, as a dear friend has taught me, writing is healing, telling our stories is healing. Sometimes it’s the only way we can process and move forward.
The incident above is not the first time I’ve experienced abuse, or been assaulted. In high school I worked at a golf course. My boss made sexual advances toward me. He threatened me, and fired me when I said no. I didn’t talk about it again until I was an adult. In college, a guy I knew created fake social media accounts so that he could send me threatening stalker-like messages, he listened to me tell him how scared I was, he let me invite him over to stay with me while I was afraid. I had no idea he was the one sending them. Manipulating me and my emotions. At a gaming convention I had my chest groped by a man in the expo hall. Grocery shopping one night, a guy brushed up against me and grabbed my ass. When I looked over my shoulder, he was laughing about it with his buddy. At the zoo an old man leaned into me, pressing his body against mine, caging me in. He breathed on my neck. These are the things I can remember right now. Sometimes I can remember everything, sometimes I can’t. I have a tendency to block things out. Sometimes memories I’ve suppressed rush back, and knock me off my feet. It’s uncomfortable, and terrifying. It’s invisible. Mostly, on the outside, I just look like me. Goofy, happy, fine.
My brain has all of these things floating around in it. It makes snap judgements for me, thinking it’s keeping me safe. Men who I do not know, are not to be trusted. I assume they all have ulterior motives, and that they are all dangerous, because I’ve experienced dangerous men, and my brain tries to keep me safe from them in the future.
When I told my therapist these stories, she nodded. She wasn’t surprised. She was understanding. She asked me to keep talking about my life, and the things that I felt had lead me to her office.
We talked about my experiences with the church. With my Sunday school teacher showing me A Thief In The Night when I was in fifth or sixth grade. About my family getting really into this King James only group. About the videos that would play in my living room about the prophecy shown in the deletion and insertion of words into versions of the Bible that weren’t KJV. About the time I went to a Lutheran church for Ash Wednesday when I was in jr. high, and panicked when they started putting ashes on foreheads. How I feared it was the mark of the beast. How that fear was confirmed when a family member told me, “Good. Never let anyone put anything on your forehead.” We talked about the homeless man who lived with us for a while, who tried to “heal” me. He came up behind me when I was at the computer, took my glasses off, and put his hands over my eyes. He got mad when I jerked away that I didn’t want him to make my sight better. I saw him near my apartment in his van several years ago, and I hid on the floor of my car. I have nightmares about him standing over my bed to this day. We talked about how I couldn’t hear the word Revelation without having an anxiety attack, and how any major change in the world/economy/political ring probably signaled the End Times for me because I grew up in a world that used those things as predictions, and signs. I told her that when I start to panic, I feel twelve years old again.
I sat in front of her shaking. Digging my nails into my hand. I told her I was worried she would think I was crazy, and that I was worried I was betraying my family. She asked me a lot of questions about how I viewed the world. She explained to me that what I experienced a lot of the time that I couldn’t put into words was a dissociative state. Then she told me that I had PTSD, and that I could get better.
I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I’m not ashamed of my diagnosis, but I am scared of it. I’m scared I’ll always feel like this, and that I’ll never be able to just live. I’m scared that I should keep everything secret, that I shouldn’t tell my story, because I’m scared I’ll lose people I love when I’m honest. I’m also scared of saying nothing.
Breaking my silence on a lot of this is due to self-preservation. I need my friends to understand why I’m a mess as the world falls apart. Why it feels like the end of everything, and not just something to get through. I need my family to understand why men scare me, why Trump scares me, why I need to feel safe as a woman in the country I live in. Why objective number one for me is eliminating things that threaten my safety, and my sanity. Why it matters so much to me how they vote.
And that’s it for now. I know this is kind of an awkward place to end this, but oh well. I’m kind of awkward.