Maybe if I write it or type it, put it in black and white it will sink in? Maybe it will feel more real? Maybe it will feel less scary? Maybe my mind and heart can wrap around it, let it in, know it, feel it, accept it? Maybe if I can’t say the word that keeps creeping up my throat making the hair on the back of my neck stand on edge, seeing it typed on a page will make it real?
Here it goes. I’m about to type the word and already there is tightness in my chest, my stomach churning, hands shaking, fight or flight setting in, throat closing and eyes tearing… rape.
It was during one of the initial sessions she first used the word. I remember wanting to run out of the room, inside denying it, thinking “how dare she!”. I had such a hard time saying the words; grown up words, embarrassing words, private words… vagina, penis, clitoris, fingered, aroused, wet, orgasm, cum, penetrate, masturbate, blow job, oral sex, and… rape.
I was eventually able to use my words, even the scary big people words, to describe what happened to me as a child. Intimate, detailed, step by step, play by play of the horror that was partially buried for all these years. And in the safe place of that office and on that couch with that safe person, I purged it. I purged the disgust, the sickness, the depravity, the anguish, the fear… the infection that has kept me in bondage for most of my life. Those memories seem like a lifetime ago now and have become like a small blip that sometimes makes its way to my radar when triggered by a trauma connected sound, smell, touch or sight. I have been grief stricken and heartbroken; experiencing all the stages of grief my therapist said she believed. Just when I thought I was almost through this; the questioning of my memories, the fear of not being believed, the wishing for life to be different and denying the reality of my past and present; the depression phase of grief exiting and tapping on my door was finally some acceptance and freedom… I got the wind knocked out of me.
I felt like a child sitting on that couch and eventually during the past eighty-six sessions I started to feel like the fifty year old woman that I am. That was until two weeks ago. That was until I experienced a new flashback, one that drove me to my knees. Crumpled on my living room floor, bowed before God, sobbing and begging for this to not be true, to not be real. For 6 days I held this all in, shoving it deep until my next appointment. In the beginning I was always afraid of not being believed. Why wouldn’t I fear that when I wasn’t believed as a child? I had gained safety on that couch and with my therapist and yet here again I find myself afraid of not being believed. Is it my fault? Did it really happen? Could I have stopped it? Am I making this up? Are these memories real? Traumatized and brainwashed with methods different than Peeta Mellark yet asking the same as he… “Real or not real?”.
She didn’t use that word during our session last week though I imagine she may have been in almost as much shock as I was. She didn’t mention it again when we met for an hour this week, but I know… I know that is what it was. I can’t say it. I can barely think of it. And next week I will be on that couch for our usual meeting time and length, and I dread the thought of that word possibly being uttered. I know for awhile now I will once again be transported back in time, feeling small, feeling like a twelve year old. I felt it during our short session on Monday. The sense of peace I told her I had is wearing off as the numbness and shock dissipate and I find myself on the verge of rage and anguish. I’m already back there just at the mere hint of this invasion to my brain and body. I shake my head in disbelief even as my gut churns, my body shakes and I can’t catch my breath. I just can’t.. No, it’s impossible! And yet it speaks of the nature of my home, my experiences, the reality I want to deny. Real or not real?
You know what IS real? The racing heartbeat, the shaky hands, the shallow and rapid breathing, the physical sensations, the wanting to jump out of my skin, to get up and run from the room, any room, to anywhere but wherever I am in attempt to outrun the thoughts and feelings, the blank numb stare I get when I think about the memories or the flashbacks come or the uncontrollable tears they sometimes bring if I let just enough feeling in; just like I experienced in her office the last two sessions. Those things are visible, observable, witnessed, and can be submitted as evidence. They are visible facts so how could I not be believed? Body memories are just as, if not more important and valid than recovered memories. So why do I question… Real or not real?
I’ve always felt the need to explain, defend, justify and prove myself in so many situations when I felt anyone question me or I wasn’t believed. Perhaps that’s because I have experienced not being believed by those who were suppose to protect me. My therapist may question me to gain more clarity and understanding, but with time she has proven herself trustworthy. When I question my memories she validates that this is normal. She has said she wants to shake the little girl (me, my little girl, little me) and make her see that this questioning the memories is a lie from the pit of hell. Questioning our memories is normal for everyone and yet it is something the enemy uses to further abuse the survivor. I often talk about this journey feeling like a war…God and Satan battling over me, within me. I feel all this angst and turmoil as I question again and again my reality and yet, there is a still small peace that keeps moving me forward not of my own volition. I am exhausted. I have been dissociating a lot since that Friday trying to flee what my mind sees and remembers, my body feels and from this war inside me. I feel in a fog and like walking on shifting sand. Really?…. rape? …again?… Real or not real?
This morning was not unlike the mornings I’ve had for quite awhile now; tear soaked pillow, awaking in a panic and dread of even opening my eyes. With coffee in hand after having my breakfast, I read my devotional and the corresponding scriptures. I lamented and searched in my heart as if frantically looking for a missing clue to a puzzle that would save the life of someone I loved; save MY life. I don’t remember what I read, all I know is that while I was getting dressed I felt the Lord impress upon my spirit that I can’t ask again for I know what recovered memories feel like. I had to hear and know the truth of what He has allowed me to see and has spoken to soul… the new memory… it was Real.
As the day went on I listened to the music that has ministered to me and with praise on my lips I was filled with worship and awe of this God blessed, God designed, warm 70 something degree February day… in Ohio no less. All day I had felt a joy, a peace and a deep deep sadness all at the same time that allowed the tears I had been shoving and avoiding this week to flow and provide some relief. Once home, I was focused on the things I wanted to accomplish before the standard Friday night dinner date with some girlfriends, but all too soon through my front door the dread set in, as did the fearing abandonment, fearing not being believed, fearing I will never be free from this… Real or not real?
Oh the lies the enemy tells us to keep us in bondage. Oh how Satan is loving this! And oh how I feel the chains tightening! But I will not say “uncle” to our enemy! I will not give in to his tactics. Soon I will feel the anger when I process this recent memory with my therapist. I will eventually feel the anger for the person who hurt me, but I will not hate them, just like I don’t hate the others! I REFUSE! It is only the enemy who will receive my hate and rage because though my past speaks of the environment in which I grew up, a home that did not know Jesus, that is no longer the current narrative in which I live and find my identity. I may question why I exist and what my purpose is, and yet I know Whose I am. I may hear the enemy’s lies and fear not being believed, and yet I know who knows and IS the Truth. I may still fear the “grown ups” in my life, and yet I am more fearful and in awe of God than ever before. I may fear being abandoned, and yet I know I never was nor will I ever be alone. I may grieve all that was taken, all that was lost, all that I will never get to experience, and yet I know God holds all my tears in jars and will one day wipe them away. I may feel hopeless and that my dreams are shattered in a million pieces, and yet I know that God’s plans for my life are better than I could ever imagine and that He dreams special dreams just for me. In my often spiritual amnesiac state I forget who God has and is re-creating me to be through His protective and transforming grace. I forget who God is! I forget the REAL that has covers me and that I have come to believe, to know, to follow, to love and to cling to over the past eighteen months. So what exactly is it that I am questioning? … Real or not real?
Oh Jesus please help me when I forget… forget who You are, forget that my heart is Your dwelling place, forget that You are fighting this war for me, forget that my every heartbeat and breath is a gift of grace that only You give. And even in, especially in, these raging storms, remind me to count it all joy for it is then that I know and feel You are closest. Show me Your presence and help me to not be afraid. Help me to stay honest, repentant and to have bold love. Cover my mind and my heart with Your protective grace to discern the real from the not real. Holy Spirit confirm the truth within my soul. Help me to know and trust what was and is my reality. Jesus please give me Your strength for my part in this battle because I am so weak and so desperately need it… I so desperately need YOU! Continue what you have started in me. Please provide the same blessings to others with similar past and present realities. Father, help your once orphaned, abuse and neglected children find healing for their wounds, safe attachment in You our good Good Father, freedom from the chains and peace like we never experienced in the worlds from which we came from prior to being adopted as Your beloved child. Thank you that we can know You are REAL even when we question everything else… Real or not real?