“We are going to get through this,” you said. And the tears I’d been trying to hold back tipped over the edge of my eyelids. I covered my face and cried, letting all of the stress and sadness spill out in the best way I know how.
The last couple of weeks on social media have been rough for survivors. Frankly, the last couple of years. It seems like every few days someone else is making headlines by sharing their story. Speaking up, speaking out against injustice, saying “me too” and so much more. They are holding the men who abused them accountable and setting a precedent that we will not stay silent. These crimes will not stay shrouded in shame that is not ours to bear.
It’s bolstering to see so many publicly stand with survivors. But this cycle of #metoo headlines is hitting me harder than others have. I’ve been reading “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van de Kolk. It is a summary of research studies and treatment methods for trauma impacted individuals. It’s fascinating and validating and painful to read, all at once. More than once I have closed the book feeling raw, exposed. Recognizing that I’ve come so far in my healing but still have so much work to do. Perhaps that awareness is contributing to my short fuse of tolerance to minor reminders of sexual abuse.
I deleted the Facebook app from my phone several days ago after a CSA advocacy group posted a quote from a perpetrator that hit me between the eyes and made me sick to my stomach. They were making a relevant point with the quote and I’m glad they are doing it. But I recognized I was feeling my capacity for triggers dwindle. I deleted the app, telling myself it would be temporary, until the senate confirmation process for Kavanaugh is completed, one way or another.
As I scrolled Instagram this morning I saw so much support for survivors from names big and small. I scrolled past them quickly, avoiding the details. I don’t want to know or hear. I don’t want to take the hands I can’t hold in person, though I know they are offered sincerely. I am tired. So very tired of the daily reminders that I am a survivor; that the stories being told are mine, too; that the decisions being weighed in our judicial system will impact me, no matter what I do.
I am tired, perhaps this is why my internal alarm system is on high-alert, moreso than usual. I was writing a letter in the cooler weather on the patio this afternoon when a nearby neighbor roared up his muscle car with a muffler that made it sound like a gunshot. I jumped out of my skin, streaking the page with ink. My heart skipped a beat and surged with anger. Immediately the internal dialogue I have conditioned into my mind played on a loop:
“You are safe. It was just a noise. Don’t panic. You’re fine. Calm down. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
The engine eventually turned off, my heart rate settled quickly back into a more normal rhythm. But the anger? The anger remained.
It’s easier for me to be angry with a neighbor who is unknown to me than it is for me to be angry with the man who is responsible for my internal alarm systems over-sensitivity. I recognize that anger is misplaced. Another close friend I reached out to this afternoon reminded me that I am allowed to feel angry. She suggested this is perhaps the next uncomfortable step towards healing. It needs to be felt.
I know my state Senator. I have met him and interacted with him on a professional level many times. Perhaps I will email his office and make my voice heard. Maybe he will remember me. Maybe he won’t. But maybe he will put one more face to all the nameless women who plead with him to do the right thing, to cast the right vote.
I wanted to bury myself under the blankets this afternoon and shut the world out. But the beauty of the first day that feels like fall beckoned me out to revel in it. I went to get groceries for soup and kitchen therapy. I drove with the windows down and the radio up. I chose a complex recipe I knew would keep me fully engaged. I grounded myself in an activity that required all my senses. And I survived the day. I might’ve even thrived a little bit.
After my shower, I started a video chat and we both knew I had something on my mind. I was talking before I could talk myself out of it, but numb in the re-telling. I couldn’t look you in the eye. And as my speech faded, I worried I would stay numb. But then you responded, showing you heard me. You didn’t just listen. You engaged. You reminded me of the things that are hard to believe when my headspace is occupied by unpleasant memories.
You agreed that yes, perhaps I should delete Instagram also, for a season. Free up more headspace for other things to aid my healing. So I did. And suddenly I have more room to breathe.
Thank you. For letting me know I am not alone. For turning “me” into “we.” It’s the best two-letter word I’ve ever heard.