I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

Injustice Trigger

By now I’m sure most people have heard about the reprehensible lenient sentence given to Brock Turner, a 20-year-old Stanford University student convicted on three counts of felony assault — “the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/ unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.” [Source: CNN] Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to a mere 6 months in county jail.

Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker

Her letter — her courageous account describing her attack, as well as the aftermath and impact on her life — gives all of us who have ever experienced rape/sexual assault a voice. My heart goes out to this woman who suffered a horrible violation of not only being raped but also an injustice of the court system.

As is so often the case when stories like this appear in my news feed, I couldn’t turn a blind eye, not even with the knowledge that it would trigger my own suffering once again. Granted I’ve already been struggling for the past couple of weeks with a triggered loss of safety due to the theft I wrote about in my last post, Strangers and Thieves; but the Stanford survivor’s story gave me serious pause. The circumstances of her rape were frighteningly similar to that of my own during that first rape in ’98.

Those of us who have been victims of rape — survived such unconscionable acts of violence — suffer the consequences of our rapists’ decision for the remainder of our lives. Had someone told me that in the aftermath of the rapes I endured, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself every time I found myself (yet again) struggling with any of the following symptoms that so many of us are forced to cope with after such trauma:

  • The intrusion of memories of: the actual rape itself; the immediate events afterward and our own reaction; the responses of those we’ve told; displaced emotion; and for those who had the courage to press charges, that ordeal as well.
  • Flashbacks and panic attacks that force us back into those horrid moments, reliving the emotions and vivid recollection of such memories.
  • Nightmares that wake us from the safety of our own bed, preventing us from getting restful sleep.
  • The hyper-vigilance of constantly being “on guard” in an attempt to protect ourselves from further threats, including an exaggerated startle response, and the exhaustion that results from being in that constant state of anxiety and fear.
  • Triggered dissociation, feeling numb, inability to experience emotion (not even joy or happiness), or feeling out of touch with reality.
  • The lack of trust and problems maintaining relationships with others that lead to isolation.
  • Shame, worthlessness, and loss of “self.”

Don’t get me wrong, these symptoms may lessen over time; but unfortunately, they never completely go away. And a lot of the time, at least for me, when I’m triggered it feels just like it did back then.

We live in an overly-sexualized society that permits rape culture, blames the victim, and excuses a behavior that is nothing short of murderous intent — murder of the soul. Rape should carry as harsh a penalty as that of murder, not a mere slap on the wrist like what Turner received. It truly is no wonder why so many rape victims don’t press charges, myself included, and why so many more don’t even report the rape. When society, especially that society’s judicial system, values a rapist’s “potential” more than the victim’s suffering, it fails in every sense of the word to be a civilized community.

It’s shameful that so many people still don’t comprehend the damage rape does to its victims. It saddens and angers me greatly that Judge Persky failed to recognize the seriousness of Turner’s actions. It’s even more shameful that a judge would favor a rapist convicted on three counts of felony assault over the victim who has no choice but to now “cope” with what was done to her.

It’s not just shameful. It’s WRONG!


And just a reminder for those entitled few who still haven’t gotten the message:

Sex without consent is rape.

Where I’ve Been…

My last post was quite a bit darker than I would normally care to share. I thought about doing a little damage control by rewriting it or completely removing it, but that post is an accurate description of how I was feeling at the time. The following week of July 12th through 18th is difficult for me to describe. None of my usual distraction methods or self-soothing practices were making a difference. The panic/fear I felt escalated to a point of feeling so out of control that I didn’t think I could trust my judgment. I was suicidal and paranoid. I went back to the crisis stabilization unit (CSU) Thursday, July 16th, and allowed them to admit me for 5 days.

I’m glad I did. Regardless of anything I’ve said in the past, I do feel a certain amount of safety and trust in the facility where I chose to get treatment. Trust is not so easily secured in my mind, so even the slightest amount of trust is something for me to celebrate.

Thankfully, medication wasn’t forced. That’s a huge relief. An attempt at a bedtime anxiety med was made; but after only one night’s dose and an incredibly groggy day followed, I needed no other reminder of what “my medicated days” were like. Medication causes me more anxiety than it helps. Period.

Like last time, this visit to CSU was a chance to STOP, catch my breath, and calm down a bit — something I was struggling to accomplish (incapable of accomplishing) at home. As it was an impulsive decision to drive myself to CSU that day, I didn’t discuss it with KR first. I feared his reaction, knowing his disapproval of mental health services, let alone being hospitalized. I left him a note telling him where I had gone and called him from CSU the following Saturday to “gauge” his reaction. As I predicted, he was angry, telling me that this, me going to CSU, was the reason he couldn’t talk to me about anything because I choose to run away.

During that phone call, I found myself apologizing again and again. I couldn’t hold back the tears as he reprimanded me for not dealing with my problems. Me crying only seemed to infuriate him more. It didn’t take long for KR’s criticisms of mental health services and me, in general, to turn to the topic of sex and how his “needs” are not being met. As I sat listening to this all too familiar tirade, while on a telephone at a crisis stabilization unit, my only thoughts were, “It’s always about sex. It’s always about sex. IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT SEX!!” I couldn’t defend myself. All I could do was cry and apologize. After I finally managed to get off of the phone, using the excuse that we were limited to brief phone calls (he had already kept me on the phone for more than 15 minutes), I recounted as much of the conversation as I could remember to the med nurse who offered an ear and gently encouraged me to talk through my panicked sobbing. I kept repeating (keep repeating even now), “It’s always about sex,” like some kind of screwed up mantra, because honestly, I feel like sex is all KR cares about — whether or not he is getting laid.

Last week, July 19th through 25th, was tense. After I returned home on the 20th, I half expected KR to kick me out; but he simply ignored me for the most part. Other than casual conversation about the garden, work, the video game he’s playing, or the latest depressing factoid going around on Facebook, we didn’t have any “meaningful” conversations. He’s still sleeping on the couch, refusing to touch me or show any form of affection. Finally, yesterday morning after KR woke up, I asked him, “Are we ever going to talk?” He agreed that we needed to; so we discussed several of the issues we’ve been having for a little over an hour, prior to him leaving for work.

Other than the common theme of sex (seriously, he’s got a one-track mind and obsesses over it), we did manage to talk about a couple of other things. For the past month, I felt like I was being punished for no other reason than being who I am. I kept asking myself, “What did I do to deserve this silence, lack of affection, and coldness?” This treatment triggered a lot of the same emotions and reactions in me as so much of the childhood confusion I experienced from my family when they did the exact same thing. That same thought, “I must deserve this,” continually filtered through my mind and thoughts. How is it possible to feel so lonely, so alone, around someone you love, who says he loves you? I have cried more in the past month than I think I have in the past 10 years. The pain is excruciating.

I told KR that I felt like I was being punished for something, but I didn’t know what. His response was, “This past month I’ve been basically… you. This past month I have been you. Doing the bare minimum to keep going.” I broke down in tears, sobbing, apologizing profusely to him because I never meant to make KR feel the way I’ve felt for the past month. And the truth is, I don’t even realize I’m doing that; but he’s right. I get stuck on auto-pilot, coasting through life, hoping for a few moments of happiness along the way. Otherwise, I’m merely surviving because I don’t know how else to “be.”

Even though I think I’ve put forth every effort in my available resources to work through many of my fears and insecurities, nothing has helped, according to KR. He sees everything I do on a daily basis as trivial and insignificant. I clean the house. I take care of the cats. I take care of all the finances — writing out monthly checks, making sure all the bills are paid, keeping a budget, and keeping track of everything we spend money on. I do all of the shopping, sometimes having to go to as many as 3 to 5 different stores just to find everything he wants or needs. I run all of the household errands. I keep up with my appointments. I do all the laundry. I run the garbage off in the trunk of my car rather than bother him to take it off in his truck. I help out with the yard work. I’ve even been cooking more to try to lighten his load some.

All of this while still trying to run 2 blogs, practice my photography and drawing skills to keep them up to par, get a few minutes of piano time in, journal daily, research topics of interest and read, practice self-care whenever I’m feeling overly anxious and triggered, and if I’m lucky, go for a much-needed hike every once in a while.

Long story, short and what I told KR — I don’t feel appreciated. I don’t feel any appreciation for all of the efforts that I do put in. I don’t feel like anything I actually do makes a difference because I constantly feel criticized. After bringing up this issue and adding how much I crave even the smallest amount of appreciation, just a simple thank you, or a hug — right there, with the mention of a hug, he stopped me, interrupted me, saying, “I’m afraid to touch you anymore,” without so much as an acknowledgment of what I was telling him I needed.

It’s the last 5 or so minutes of this conversation — which I’m choosing not to write out — that has me most upset, triggered, and wondering if perhaps, it is time to let this relationship go, not only for my own sanity but for KR’s as well. I’m not sure if two emotionally unhealthy people can have a healthy relationship. I’m not convinced that KR even wants to work any of this out. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe too much damage has been done. Or maybe these are echoes of my past that I’m projecting onto this relationship. The fact is, I don’t know; and I don’t know what else to do. Neither KR nor I know how to fix this.


 

In an attempt to figure out exactly when all of this began, the obvious answer is KR’s meltdown a month ago triggered the current wave of panic, anxiety, helplessness, and despair. But this has been going on for years. Losing SSDI most certainly threw me for a loop. Reapplying for SSDI is literally reliving that experience all over again — all of the uncertainties, the insecurities, the stress of having no financial means to support myself, feeling like a burden, not only to KR but to society as a whole, and the pressure to get over the traumas I lived through yet struggle every single day to process and recover from. The upcoming hearing date precisely one week prior to the anniversary of one of those traumas is just icing on the cake.

Excuse me while I have a complete nervous break down!


A few helpful links about PTSD:

Until this last visit to CSU, I don’t think I quite understood the impact that PTSD has had on my life or in my relationships. Prior to now, I thought, “I’ve already talked about that, dealt with it.” I had no idea that this shit would continue to affect my life so adversely, possibly for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m becoming a bit bitter. If I ever get in touch with my anger, I’m going to ask her, “Where in the hell have you been?!

Rape. The gift that just keeps on giving!

 

 

 

 

My Story – Part 13 (Chaos Reviewed)

Continued from My Story – Part 12

I spent the last few years putting together a timeline of my life experiences and the last year writing out My Story here in order to make sense of everything that happened in my life and in an attempt to process the emotions attached to each event. I analyzed my inability to keep a job and maintain a stable lifestyle to the point of obsession. I struggled the entire 5 years that I received Social Security benefits to justify my need for them. I questioned the validity of my illness and berated myself for not trying harder. As the stigma of mental illnesses became a talking point for political bureaucracy, the voices of so many people commenting on social media and articles about the misuse of social services ran through my mind, saying things like, “Why can’t you just keep a job?” Or, “You need to try harder.” Or, “You’re just lazy.” It’s very difficult not to take things like this personally when I’ve struggled with mental illness for the majority of my adult life and heard friends, family members, and even professionals in the mental health field say those exact same things to me. The hopelessness of realizing that my life is somehow worth less because I haven’t figured out how to live in a world of chaos is devastating.

As more and more people spoke out about the traumatic consequences of having experienced rape and sexual assault, it became clear to me that the sickening display of public ignorance surrounding these tragedies is most certainly a contributing factor for the “rape culture” in which we live. The lack of compassion and victim blaming that occur in our society should give each of us reason to pause and question how our morals are serving us or if they are at all. It is with profound sadness and intense anger that I struggle to understand a callous society that feels so alien to me. A society that re-victimizes those who have already experienced horrible victimization through the criminal acts of rape and sexual assault by shaming victims when they are most vulnerable rather than placing that shame and blame where it belongs — on those who committed the crime of rape.

The effects of constant chaos in my life continued for years — one thing after another after another. I never knew what I was feeling because there wasn’t time to reflect. Much of the time everything felt so unreal that time no longer had meaning. I simply had TOO much life to process in TOO short of a time! In the years after I was raped, I had numerous other encounters of a sexual nature that tested my strength to survive. Maybe it was my naivety or maybe it was just plain stupidity on my part, but I was easily taken advantage of. For some reason, I have a knack for getting myself into situations that have serious detrimental effects on my emotional well-being and my ability to function as others do.

All types of relationships are extremely difficult for me, whether it’s family, peers, or intimate relationships. There’s a point of contention where most people would say that I don’t put forth the effort in which to “maintain relationships.” While I acknowledge some truth in this statement, I would also point out that most, if not all, people struggle with exactly the same thing. Out of sight, out of mind takes on a very literal meaning for me when so many people I was once close to told me to basically “buck up and get over it” during some of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

I’m like a feral animal who’s been kicked one too many times.

Trust most certainly does not come easy for me. It was for this reason that seeking therapy this last time was so terrifying. It took every ounce of courage I had in me to seek out help. I continue to reject the notion that psychiatric medication is necessary in the treatment of severe mental illnesses. I acknowledge that these medications might prove beneficial to some people, even life-saving as some would say; but for me, they were completely worthless, often more damaging than helpful. Therefore, I will continue to refuse medication. I did, however, accept therapy and case management. I still remain leery of therapy which, perhaps, hinders any progress as a result. Therapy is a slow process, one that I question relentlessly. I’m still not convinced that it “helps.” Or maybe I just haven’t found the “right” therapist for me.

Now, I doubt I will ever know because I simply don’t have it in me to start over with yet another new therapist. After a year and 4 months, my therapist and I parted ways, rather abruptly this past week. I’m still trying to process this sudden end, so I’m not really sure what I should say about it. I think my defenses went up when my therapist commented on the fact that a lot of my issues are financial in nature; so I should get a job, something I’ve heard so many times from so many people. If only it was that easy. I could have been a real smart-ass and said, “Well, nah-fuckin’-duh!” But I didn’t. Honestly, I’m not really sure what my response was other than maybe stunned silence. I simply don’t remember.

He asked a simple question, “What are your goals for this year?” I couldn’t answer. I have no idea. I really wanted to scream at him (but didn’t). If I could answer questions like that, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have sought therapy to begin with! Then, he asked what my goals for therapy are. Yeah, same reaction — complete shut down. All I remember is the argument going on in my brain for me to SHUT UP! when I tried to fill the awkward silence by voicing my concerns again that therapy is a waste of time. And before I knew it, he was handing me his business card, telling me to email him when, for all intents and purposes, I was ready to actually “talk.” He literally said, “The ball’s in your court.” As if this, my life, is some sort of petty, manipulative game.

If the ball is in my court, I choose NOT to play the fucking game!!! Perhaps, by simply making that statement or writing about any of this publicly is indeed “playing the game;” but I take a very literal approach to my life, no-nonsense. I hate drama in real life. It feels like a waste of time. Drama is for television and fiction novels at best, just as games are for people who feel competition is a necessary part of life. The two go hand in hand and are part of the illusion that creates suffering.

I’m left wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me?!” The same question that has plagued me since early childhood.

I took his card. I left in silence without saying a word. I was livid; but more so, I was hurt. As I drove home in my car, I cried the tears triggered by a deep sorrow — despair that I may never heal, despair that I’m left to face it all alone yet again. One of my favorite parks in the area was on the way home; so I decided to stop at the last-minute to go for a walk and try to clear my mind. Nature walks typically quiet my thoughts to a more manageable level. Considering it was only 33° that day and I was wearing dress shoes rather than my usual hiking shoes, it may not have been the best idea; but I needed to test a theory.

Safely back home, I cried more. I vented to KR when he got home from work. I vented to my case manager the next day. The thought occurred to me that I should quit case management as well, but that small part of me whispered, “No, not yet.” Maybe my case manager is right. Maybe I would benefit more from a life coach rather than a therapist, but part of me feels that too much from my past still affects my conscious mind and interferes with my ability to move forward. I don’t know how to process any faster. I can only grow from that which I understand, at the pace my brain allows me.

The echoes of my past are as jumbled a mess as ripples on a lake, as hard to decipher as a nightmare in heavy sleep.

I’m convinced that depression is a grieving process — stuck grief. Most people don’t give themselves enough time to grieve losses, myself included. When we push away that grief by carrying on as always, it prolongs the grief. Having lost a lot in my life, I wonder if I will ever properly process all of the emotions that I fight to this day, particularly when the emotions themselves trigger such a strong flight response that I simply check-out for a while. It’s usually when I’m most stressed and depressed that I end up isolating myself the most. The majority of the time, I just want to be left alone. Solitude has been my one saving grace. However, it has its price as well. I meant for therapy to be my “reality check,” to assist me in coming to terms with my chaotic past. Sometimes, I need help in gauging what is rational and what is irrational. The anxiety that I feel daily as a result of this constant second-guessing is equally chaotic and overwhelming. Is it really too much to ask for one person who is willing to help me remain grounded, to help me recognize what so often I cannot — that I’m slipping too far down the rabbit hole?

I don’t know what the future holds or if I will ever be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, let alone successfully maintain employment. The only conclusion I have made from all of this self-reflection and introspection is that I am flat-out exhausted. My life is a minute-by-minute struggle on a daily basis to keep my head above water. I’m tired of bottling everything up. I’m tired of having no one to talk to about this incredibly difficult time in my life. I’m tired of feeling worthless. I’m tired of second-guessing everything I say.

And most of all, I’m tired of remaining silent.

This is my chance to tell my side of the story.


~ Finitoque ~

This is where I will end My Story (for now, maybe). It’s seems only fitting to end it where therapy ends. I apologize for the length and redundancy in parts. For those of you who remained loyal in reading My Story and those who stopped by for a briefer glimpse into my crazy world, my bizarre reality —

I thank you sincerely and wish you all the best. 

Anniversary Triggers

Have you ever come across one of those self-help/seemingly-meant-to-be-inspirational articles or positivity memes that feels “wrong” in some way? They’re usually an overgeneralization that actually invalidates what a person is feeling. Most of the time, I perceive these as trite and contradictory. I get that my perception of life and a lot of other things is skewed and sometimes illogical and/or irrational; but there are plenty of concepts that make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. No manner of explaining them to me has ever made them “click.” I’ve experienced that “click” before (it’s exactly that, a click in my brain), usually with mathematical concepts, but never with emotional or other types of abstract ideas.

For instance, the acts of “letting go” or forgiveness are two concepts that baffle me to no end. I don’t understand the action involved in either of those. They seem like abstract, intangible notions that have no real end or meaning. Does that make sense? I’m not sure if my words express the level of confusion I feel when trying to grasp something so vague, so incomprehensible to me. And my perplexity is not limited to those two concepts alone. Those are just the two that popped into my head at the moment.

Maybe, these two concepts popped into my head at this moment because I’m struggling to understand how to leave the past in the past and move forward. The anniversary of the first rape is coming up, April 11/12. Because I associate Easter (April 12th was Easter Sunday in 1998) with that rape, even Easter Sunday each year is particularly difficult for me, which prolongs the turmoil I feel around this time of year. Throw in the anniversaries of 1.) April 27th — the birth date of the child I gave up for adoption from the second rape and 2.) April 14th — my dad’s death a few years later, and it just makes April a month of bad memories.

Every year, I tell myself, “I’m over that. It’s in the past. No sense in dwelling on it.” And every year, despite my best efforts, I feel so helpless in the power each event holds over my mind. Maybe, that’s why I’m feeling so exhausted… so spacey… so numb. I’m filling my days with distractions — obsessive distractions — in the hope that I’ll make it through another year.

I will.

I always do.

It just doesn’t make it any less painful when the flashes of memories come whether I want them to or not.

Help Me Understand, Alone on a Limb

This is a very, very sensitive topic for me. I’ve always considered what happens in the bedroom, should stay in the bedroom… private. But I need to talk about this. I need to talk about sex. I apologize profusely for the “too much information” vibe of this post.

And again, this post may be triggering for some readers. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Proceed with caution. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My relationship with my boyfriend is suffering from what I can only describe as an aversion to sex on my part. I attribute this aversion to flashbacks regarding the rapes and a lifelong, general disinterest in sex. Even before the rapes in ’98, I never had much of a sex drive which has left me feeling pressured to “perform” in all 3 of the long-term relationships I have ever been in. My current boyfriend and I met online back in 2000 while I was attending college. I’ve referred to him as KR in “My Story” and here. Quick recap since I didn’t go into much detail about our relationship in that post: We went on our first date in July 2000, and he moved in with me the following December. We dated for a little over a year and a half that first time we were together. The reasons for our break-up in March 2002 were complicated. I felt completely overwhelmed at the time and could feel myself slipping into a deeper depression. I had just been hospitalized for the fifth time at a psychiatric hospital. While I was in the hospital, he moved us out of my apartment and in with a friend because I could no longer pay my rent. In retrospect, this move was the final straw for me that caused me to break up with him at that time.

However, KR and I remained close friends even after the break-up and talked occasionally. In November 2006, I was facing homelessness again. KR offered to take me in when no one else would. I accepted, and we’ve been together for a little over 7 years this time. I’m not going to say that it’s been any easier this time than the first time because each of us has our own issues that cause us to struggle financially as well as emotionally. I don’t blame KR for this any more than I blame myself. Placing blame does absolutely no good. I accept that our struggles are part of who we are, that the person he is and the person I am does the best we can in order to survive.

I thought he felt this way, too. How do you live with someone for almost 7 years and not accept that person for who she is? I get that people fall in and out of love. That’s just a fact of life. However, KR knew my history from the get-go this time – from the beginning – prior to my moving in with him. He knew that I have problems with sex. He knew that sometimes I dissociate and have flashbacks. More recently, he expressed his dissatisfaction with our sex life, which he feels has been an issue from the beginning of our relationship. KR has a very high sex drive, much more so than me. He actually told me that he wants it as much as 3 – 4 times per day, but that he would settle for 2 – 3 times per week. I, on the other hand, would be happier with, maybe, a couple of times per month; but usually, I give-in to the pressure about once per week (which, quite frankly, is way more often than we were doing it the first few years of our relationship). I have been trying. 

KR complains constantly that his “needs” are not being met while I constantly feel pressured to “perform.” And that is, for all intents and purposes, all sex is for me nowadays, a performance. I’m lucky if I can remain present for the performance – even luckier if I can’t. Sometimes, it’s easier to simply drift away to a happier place. More often than not lately, even the slightest touch sends me into a panic. The constant groping makes me consider the possibility that my body is not my own, but rather an object or a toy for KR to play with for his own pleasure. That may sound harsh to others; but I feel as though I have no say in the matter, no right to say “no.” KR tells me that I can say “no;” yet if I do, he withholds all affection or worse yet throws a moody tantrum that would put a two-year old to shame.

For instance, there was an incident last September when KR tried to get me to perform oral sex, something that is incredibly triggering for me. I actually said “no” for the first time in my life, a blatant “no” (believe me when I say, this was quite an accomplishment for me). Usually, I simply show hesitance or protest in other passive ways because well, to be honest after thinking about it a few minutes, I’m not really sure why. Oral sex is something that truly disgusts me, makes me want to throw up, kind of disgust. I have performed this act in the past if I can get out of my head long enough to do it; but it is not something I enjoy. That night, however, I said “no.” Rather than respecting my assertiveness and my boundaries, KR was completely irate and said, “Well, I guess we’re done here!” And stormed off. After a few minutes, I flat-out asked him, “Do I or do I not have the right to say ‘no’ to something that makes me so uncomfortable?” He replied angrily, “I’m 38 years old. I’ll be damned if I never get another fucking blow job!”

Sex with KR was not always this volatile, but I have really struggled to deal with it. I understand that he has “needs” and submitted to having sex more times than I can count because of my love for him. The flashbacks resulting from sex that I experienced during the first 5 or 6 years with my boyfriend were much less frequent. A couple of those flashbacks really stand out in my mind as being quite severe. I’ll spare you the details of what goes through my mind during one of these; but I’ll share that the emotions and, sometimes, the physical sensations are so extreme that I have literally broken down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. Lately, at least for the past few months, these are happening with much greater frequency. Things between KR and me have grown more and more intense during this time, too. Arguments and financial stress are tearing us apart, as well as all of this (my unresolved issues over the rapes) coming up again. I’m confused and feel pressured all the time. He’s frustrated, telling me to face it by having more sex. He has lost patience with me and my issues.

Early yesterday morning, I experienced the worst flashback I have ever had during sex. It was brutal, to say the least. He had had a few beers, so it was a lot rougher than what I’m comfortable with. After it was over, he passed out, drunk on the bed. I got up and got a shower, just standing there, crying before I collapsed into a ball sobbing. I stayed in the shower until I used up all the hot water and it ran cold over me. After I finally got dressed, I went to RAINN’s website to chat with someone when I couldn’t calm myself down. She tried to help me get grounded because I was feeling “beside myself,” for lack of a better word. We ended up getting disconnected when I clicked on a link she shared with me to other grounding resources. I should have reconnected with her, but I didn’t. I’m ashamed to admit that I ended up self-harming, which I haven’t done for many, many years (at least, not with a razor blade). Hopefully, by admitting it publicly, I’ll be less likely to do it again.

Afterwards, I went numb for a few hours. By the time I finally went to bed, it was 8:00 am. When I finally woke up around 4:00 pm, KR acted like nothing had happened; so I thought it must all be in my mind. I’m just so confused. I don’t know how to make sense of anything anymore, and I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I feel like I’m reliving a past nightmare. I’ll admit that I avoid a lot of things, sex included; but is my boyfriend correct in thinking that having more sex is the answer to wanting sex and dealing with the symptoms of PTSD? I don’t think I know what a normal, healthy sexual relationship looks like. I get so exhausted with fighting off advances that I don’t feel like I have a choice but to give-in. Is this just “normal” for women?

This is causing both of us an incredible amount of stress. It’s beginning to feel like a power struggle with no solution. I want to be able to satisfy him, but I can’t. Physically and emotionally, it is just too painful. The resentment he feels towards me is completely understandable; however, his lack of understanding for my perspective and lack of validation of my feelings are not. I would hate to throw away a 7 year relationship (13 year friendship) over my lack of sexual desire. Like KR said, we are compatible in every other way, intellectually especially; but sex is a major problem. Again, I feel hopeless. If history repeats until we learn the lessons we were meant to learn, what am I failing to grasp? Why can’t I process all of this junk and just be over it already? Therapy appointments are too far apart, and I have no one else to talk to. I’m feeling all alone out on this limb. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Like I said, I can’t make sense of this. Please, help me understand what I’m supposed to be doing.

My Story – Part 4 (The Second Half of My Year of Hell)

Continued from My Story – Part 3 (The First Half of My Year of Hell)

In the months that followed the first rape, I became promiscuous, no longer caring about my self-worth or the consequences of my actions. I stayed with a friend for about a month, until she kicked me out of her apartment due to my bizarre behavior. I left the area and moved in with my mom and dad in my hometown. I was only there for a little over a month before I received the divorce papers. I don’t know why I even thought I had a chance of beating the “supervised visitation” clause that my husband’s attorney put into the divorce decree; but I knew I needed an attorney of my own. An attorney I saw in my hometown told me I needed to obtain an attorney where my husband, C.F., and our son were living; so I went back there, having no idea where I would live and no income or savings to support myself, let alone to obtain an attorney. I ended up staying in a homeless shelter for an entire month while working for an inventory service; but I was never able to afford an attorney of my own. Pressured by C.F. and coerced by his attorney, I signed the divorce papers as they were; and our divorce became final several months later.

This brings me to the second incident in 1998 that forever changed the course of my life. My job with the inventory service required us to travel to various locations in Middle Tennessee in order to count inventory for retail stores. The inventory service provided the vans we were required to ride in order to get to these locations. Depending on how many people were needed to count the store, we would take anywhere from 1 to 3 vans. Because of the nature of the job, we were required to work during the early morning hours, leaving sometimes as early as 2:00 am to get to our destination. The homeless shelter where I was living required its residents to vacate the premises during “normal” working hours, from around 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; so I was only getting maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep per night, if I was lucky. After about a month of this, it finally started taking its toll.

The morning of the second rape (August 11, 1998, the day before my birthday), was hectic. A friend I had made at the homeless shelter, who I will refer to as T.S., worked with me at the inventory service. We were late leaving the shelter that morning which got us to the van’s pick-up point just before the vans pulled out. For some reason, T.S. and I got separated onto two different vans. We normally, always rode together. It was an hour’s ride to our destination in Donelson, TN. I was completely exhausted and quickly fell asleep on the van on the way to the store we were counting that night.

The people who I worked with were an unsavory crowd, to put it mildly. For instance, I was asked to drive the work van one day while the girls in the seat behind me rummaged through my purse and stole my debit card right out of my wallet without my knowledge. Another co-worker had exposed himself to me, not only once, but twice! However, I never expected what happened that day I fell asleep on the van…. I woke up to someone inside me, the van still moving on its way to our destination. I was so exhausted that I didn’t even feel him pull down my pants. He had covered us in his jacket. I was frozen in fear. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even say “no” or “stop” or anything at all. I looked around the van embarrassed that this was happening to me and in disbelief that no one saw.

There were at least 4 or more other people on that van with me and my rapist that day, 2 of which were our supervisors at the time. One was driving and the other was sitting in the passenger seat. I remember looking at the backs of their heads screaming in my mind, “Help me! Help me! Help me!” But I could make no words leave my mouth. The two girls who stole my debit card were also there. To this day I find it hard to believe that no one saw anything out of the ordinary that day, that no one saw this man raping me. If anyone witnessed the rape, no one ever said anything; and I was too ashamed to ask.

I don’t remember my rapist saying a single word to me before, during, or even after. Prior to the rape, I never really spoke to this particular co-worker. I didn’t even know his real name, only the nickname Chug (and no, I don’t feel this man deserves the privacy of not having his name mentioned, at least the name I knew him by). He made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable from the first time I ever met him; so I avoided him. On the van, I couldn’t. I was sitting next to the window, and he pinned me in by sitting next to me, purposefully moving seats after I got on the van. And he was a very large man. When he finished, I felt completely mortified and sick to my stomach. When we arrived at the store, I ran to the restroom to get myself cleaned up… and vomited.

I’m not sure how I made it through that day. I was in shock and in a panic. But I had to pretend nothing had happened and concentrate on doing my job for the next few hours.

I only told one person about what had happened that day, T.S., the friend from the homeless shelter who would later become my roommate when we left the shelter. I found her when I finally left the restroom. Her response was, “I can’t leave you alone for a minute!” I don’t think she really believed that I was raped. Even my own family didn’t (still doesn’t, as far as I know) believe that I was raped in that van when I finally broke down and told them months later. I didn’t want to talk about it because talking about it made it feel too real. I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. I pretended that it was just a bad dream. I tried to put it out of my mind.

Less than a week later, I quit my job. The humiliation of having to see my rapist every day was too much! A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. Can you say insult to injury?! I was still self-harming through promiscuity, so I had no idea who the father was. Three possibilities: 1 – my rapist, who obviously used NO protection; 2 – my, for lack of a better word, fuck-buddy who told me that he had a vasectomy; and 3 – a one night stand the weekend after my birthday (we used condoms). Could things possibly get any worse? I wasn’t even divorced yet. I was so ashamed of myself. And by the way, never ask the Universe, “Could things get worse?” because I guarantee you, they can and will while in this state of mind.

While I was pregnant, I found out that I had contracted genital warts from HPV. My doctor told me that my case was one of the most severe he had ever seen. He told me the worst case was a 3-year-old little girl (yeah, we live in a sick world). I had to have laser surgery to remove them, but not until long after the pregnancy. My life felt like a bad dream before the first rape, a nightmare after. But the second rape turned my nightmare into one of those night terrors, the type of nightmare that leaves you paralyzed in fear and gasping for every breath!

I wanted to get an abortion, but I had no money for that. I became increasingly suicidal and ended up at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute due to suicidal ideation (Hospitalization #4 – suicidal ideation). After a two-week stay in the hospital that relented only after telling the doctors I no longer wanted an abortion, I was finally released (what can I say, TN is the belt buckle). A couple of weeks later my car was repossessed. Hopelessness set in. My roommate pressured me about finding a job. One night the pressure was too much; I gave-in to the hopelessness and took all of the medications I had stockpiled. I attempted suicide for the 3rd time (Suicide attempt #3 – overdose). I woke up a few days later in a strange house, having no idea how I got there. I have no memory of those missing days. Only what I was told by the creepy acquaintance who found me passed on my bed and took me to his house rather than a hospital.

T.S. moved out of our trailer by the first of November, leaving me to face all of the bills alone, still with no job. By the end of November, I finally got a job at Wal-Mart; but it wasn’t soon enough to prevent my eviction from the trailer I was renting. Facing homelessness again, another acquaintance, who I will refer to as D.L., allowed me to move into her unfinished basement. It was so cold down there! I lived in her basement for almost three months in the dead of winter, sleeping on my sofa, and walking the mile and a half (one way trip) back and forth to work at Wal-Mart. There was one night in January that I walked home during a tornado, but at least it was unseasonably warm that night. When I received my W2 in the mail, D.L. handed it to me opened, telling me she had mistaken it as her own. A couple of months after I left D.L.’s house, I found out that she had stolen my identity, no doubt from that W2 she had opened. She had taken out a credit card in my name and maxed it out. I found this out later when the credit card company began calling me to collect for non-payment.

My divorce became final in January 1999. I wasn’t even present in the courtroom. C.F. told me to go one place, but I found out too late that it was in another. He found me on the courthouse steps, crying, after it was all over. And just like that, our marriage was over; and I no longer had a say in my son’s life.

Finally, at the end of February, I moved into my own apartment in Lincoln Homes Projects (government housing). This move put me 4 and a half miles away from where I worked, still at Wal-Mart; and I still had no vehicle of my own. Most days, I could simply take the bus to and from work; but on Sundays, the bus didn’t run. I either had to walk the entire 8 mile round trip (which I often did), hitchhike (which I often did), or ask someone for a ride (people get tired of that very quickly). And the bus quit running around 11:00 pm. There were plenty of times I had to walk that 4 and a half miles home from work late at night after a 6-9 hour shift because I had just missed the last bus. And keep in mind, I was also 7-9 months pregnant during all this walking.

Shortly after I moved into this apartment, one of the guys I worked with at Wal-Mart, became increasingly friendly, i.e. offering me rides home from work or to the laundry mat. Out of desperation, I often accepted these rides; but he became increasingly creepy at the same time (very strange behavior). I made it clear to him from the beginning that I was not interested in a relationship with him or sex or anything else, for that matter; but he was persistent in his advances. A neighbor mentioned to me that she saw him driving up and down our block at all hours of the day and night. He would often show up at my door unannounced. And this man, who I will refer to as “my stalker,” followed me over the course of 6 moves, where I was often told of his presence by neighbors or people who lived with me. Seriously, he stalked me for years. He still sends friend requests on social networking sites, which I always block! And NO, I never had sex with this man. Creepy is not a turn-on.

Now, all that walking I did throughout the entirety of this pregnancy must have seriously sped up my labor and delivery time. I called my contact through Caring Choices, the adoption agency I was using. I told her there was no hurry, but I thought I might be having consistent contractions. Half an hour later when she got there, she found me breathing heavy and barely able to speak. She quickly drove me to the hospital. My water broke in the elevator on the way up to labor and delivery. No sooner had the orderly gotten me out of the wheel chair and began undressing me, the baby crowned. The orderly yelled, “Somebody come quick, she’s having this baby!” A nurse delivered him because the doctor didn’t even have time to get there. From the time I called my contact until the time I gave birth was no more than 1 hour (April 27, 1999).

I got to spend 3 very emotional days with this little bundle of joy. His adoptive parents and I chose his name together. I felt honored that they would share this experience with me. His parents (and all the people at Caring Choices, too) were truly the first kind faces I had seen in a very long time. They showed me such compassion that I knew I had made the right choice. On May 15, 1999, I signed the surrender of adoption, giving up this child to his adoptive parents, who took him home from the hospital 3 days after his birth. This was truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made; but I felt that it was in his best interest to find more suitable, stable parents to raise him than what I, myself, could possibly provide. This was one very special gift that I was able to give in this lifetime, and I can only hope that karma rewards with compassion.

While I was in the hospital giving birth, my apartment in Lincoln Homes was broken into. They stole everything of value, which was very little, and ransacked the place. I still miss my class ring and the little golden Buddha statue. It wasn’t even real gold! I was furious; but I was also scared. My contact from Caring Choices took me home with her, and I spent the night. Then, my sister and her husband took me back to my hometown for a few days.

I tried to piece my life back together, making plans to attend Austin Peay State University that fall. I decided to major in graphic design in order to get back to my love of art. Prior to going back to school, on July 4, 1999, my apartment was broken into again. At this point a friend of mine took pity on me and moved me in with him and his roommate. Still, my stalker was following me. He even keyed my friend’s truck one day when I drove it to work. My friend chased him off several times from where we lived together. By spring semester, I moved into my own apartment close to the college, a small studio. When I got this apartment at the first of the year, my stalker began showing up on my doorstep again. With no help from management at Wal-Mart where we both worked and feeling overwhelmed with the unwanted attention from him, I quit my job. I changed jobs several more times after that, none lasting more than a couple of months at a time, until I began working part-time as a graphic designer for a local printing business in October 2000.

I could end the story here because things calmed down significantly in my life when I began focusing on me and what I wanted to achieve by going back to college. However, this wasn’t the end of my roller coaster ride of emotions, chaos, and battle with mental illness. Throughout the entire pregnancy, I was taken off all of the antidepressants. My mind cleared of the fog that deadened my emotions and my creativity. For the first time in years, I was actually feeling the emotions that were suppressed by the medications. By September 1999, my psychiatrist prescribed Effexor and Seroquel for sleep because these emotions became so overwhelming.

To be continued….