* This is also posted in Share Your Story.
My story first appeared within the forums back in 2007. I’d just joined After Silence, and my trauma had occurred eleven years prior to that. Now, coming up on 23 years since I was raped, it has occurred to me that while my story remains the same, my perspective on it has greatly evolved. Much can be said for the passage of time – to include the coming to light of details that perhaps were overlooked or otherwise censored the first time I’d chosen to write about what is undeniably the worst time in my life.
To explain, 2007’s post was written by an entirely different version of me. A me that still blamed herself, a me that was fearful of being told that I ‘should be over this already.’ A me that was on her way to becoming free of a loveless marriage, where the person who should have been my biggest support was also the person I was most afraid of. A me, who remained within a mental prison with little hope of ever being paroled.
Regardless, this story was told once before, but to best try to describe the way it was written in 2007 – it’s like watching a movie on mute. You know it’s there, you’ve got the gist of what happened, but there’s still SO much there that was missed or omitted simply because I was either not ready to elaborate on details or because I thought to do so would be risky. I can honestly say most of the risk was attributed to my then-husband finding out that I’d put that much of my ‘dirty laundry’ online – and the smaller percentage was in being subsequently blamed for my own part in what had happened. Of course, I know now that the latter was a product of my own under-developed thinking…
So, what’s happened since I last told my story?
I got divorced. His idea, believe it or not – I guess I was unable to measure up to what he perceived to be the perfect wife. I was fat, I was lazy, I was horrible in bed. It was just easier for him to chalk it all up to depression and bail out of the relationship rather than try to fix it. In all honesty, it was beyond fixable and in hindsight, I’m GLAD he asked for the divorce. I know I wouldn’t have been the first one to walk away. If this were the case for him, I’d still be in a VERY bad situation.
I finally went to therapy. I made my first appointment one week after he asked me for the divorce. He no longer cared to be ‘my person,’ and actually encouraged me to go. I’d realize later it’s because he was already seeing someone new and thought perhaps therapy would help carry me through the hurdles and transitions that lay ahead and would lessen his own personal obligation to me.
I grieved my marriage of 8 years – not because I loved him. I did, but it was a somewhat forced affection for the man who presented as a ‘safer’ choice. When I met him, I was on a very dangerous, self-destructive journey, and I think to marry him was a choice I needed to make in order to force a direction that didn’t lead to my complete downfall. I grieved the familiarity more than I did anything else – I sobbed over the loss of not just a marriage, but also of the idea that stability existed for me.
I eventually found love – the head-over-heels kind that I thought was the case the first time around. I found this with my best friend – another survivor. It is never a nice thing to hear – a loved one having been through their own trauma, but in our case, it made it all the easier to comfort one another and hold each other up when needed. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past winter.
Through therapy, self-reflection and in realizing the true definition of a healthy relationship, I’ve come to realize that I am not a survivor of just rape and potentially of child sexual abuse – I’m also a survivor of the more ‘silent’ type of domestic violence – although my husband never raised a hand to me in anger, there was mental, emotional and verbal abuse and there was behavior that could be defined as gaslighting. It took many years, but I am finally understanding there is more to my story that originally put forth, things I’ve never said, and that I’m now needing to add to the previously presented version, if only for the sake of being accurate on where I stand now and why.
So basically, after further thought on how to re-introduce my story, or at least, an updated, uncensored version of it, I’ve decided that it needs to be written in three installments.
To explain, there are three very significant junctures within my life that I have realized are all connected and contribute to the woman you know today. The first installment will discuss - in depth - my childhood. It’s hard for me, in hindsight, to pinpoint exactly when I was first abused. Unlike the trauma I experienced in 1996, (this will be the second installment) I have zero memory of the point in my childhood where something went terribly wrong. I have written bits and pieces of what I do remember; in blog entries and in postings, but I will attempt to elaborate on things a little more clearly in this first installment. I am sure this will be the shortest one. For now, anyway. Perhaps at some point, there will be an addendum to it, should things ever come to light. I’ve shared with very few people what I suspect happened based on behaviors of mine that, as an adult, I recognize as being problematic. I have been holding onto some very broken, fragmented memories and tiny little snippets that cannot prove anything, as well as the belief that if I couldn’t remember, then it likely didn’t exist. Now, years later, while those childhood incidents have never been confirmed, I cannot deny there was something VERY wrong and that they were not handled the way they should have been. Although my mother, who was not my suspected abuser, is a key player in this particular time period, several people failed me. Several.
My second installment will likely be the hardest of the three – for I feel that whenever I’ve recalled the events of October 4th, 1996, I’ve taken care to omit a lot of the grisly details as a means of sugar-coating and perhaps protecting both myself and whomever was listening. We all have our own personal reasons for doing so, and I’m no different.
A friend recently confided in me that she felt ‘crazy’ for having the desire to get into all of the ‘nitty-gritty’ details – who on earth would even want to read that? It’s not crazy, though – it makes perfect sense to me. You see, we as survivors do not just remember the condensed version of our story that we might prefer to share with others for the time being – most of us remember the details more than anything else. We remember the things that were said to us that we’d never repeat. We remember what was done, we remember what we were thinking during the moment. We remember the fear, the pain, the shame. These are things we don’t really talk about – especially the shame bits. Too often, it’s because of shame that we try to avoid these details, some of which are very important to take the time to try to understand how they’ve affected us in the long term.
The third and final installment deals with life after 1996. See, I truly thought my story ended there, as that was a more obvious trauma, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. Trauma does not always have an exclamation point – it sometimes is silent. This third installment will discuss those very things that were not quite as obvious to me – things I’ve only recently learned to recognize and give a name to. Things I’ve had to admit to myself as being yet another truth that I’d been denying existed for ages. Things I’ve had to reluctantly accept, even if it meant adding another form of abuse that I’ve experienced to a list that already seemed long. Along with this story comes that sad realization that there are still many side effects of the eight years that I was married that I still struggle with today - and that domestic violence is the main culprit.
Friends - trauma leaves marks. No two marks are the same, but regardless, they are lasting and they’re impossible to erase, ignore or scrub away. So, rather than try to conceal these marks any further, I’ve decided to highlight them and to attempt to explain why they’re there – to myself, most of all, as I’ve realized that it’s mostly me who’s been in denial for all of these years and it’s time to transition into acceptance.
I will be posting the installments here, and in the Share Your Story forum when I’m finished typing them up. It hasn’t been easy to hold myself to task and to write all of this out – especially while juggling life as I know it…family, house, kids, pets, school stuff - and I imagine some of it will be hard for you to read, too – especially those of you who have taken the time to get to know me. I imagine that now, you’ll REALLY know me. And surprisingly, while that scared the life out of me at one point, I’m now okay with that.
I welcome any thoughts, feedback, well wishes and kind words via comments or PMs. Although I am not very good at asking for it, I will admit that I am needing periodic doses of encouragement as well as the reassurance that I am being heard as I struggle to reflect, analyze and interpret not only one voice, but three different ones as they each tell their stories.
In closing, I wish to thank in advance, those of you who read beyond this introduction. I am hopeful that this not only serves as a reminder that while trauma affects us all in different ways, we are all actually very similar in the respect that we’re not alone in how we think, how we learned to stay silent in the first place, and most importantly, how we ALL deserve to heal.
All my love,