Tag Archives: flashbacks

Trapped

I think it’s the feeling trapped that’s worst for me.  Feeling like I can’t get out and I can’t say no.

My NP was not insensitive or ruthless.  I think my post yesterday made her sound that way, and she wasn’t.  It just felt that way to me, and my feelings do not always reflect reality.  In reality, she was kind and understanding.  I know she recognized that the discussion about an exam triggered me.  I mean, we went from joking about Star Trek and debating the merits of particular knitting patterns (seamless sweater patterns FTW) at the beginning of the appointment to me staring at the floor and giving one or two word answers.  She knows I have a history of sexual abuse, although she doesn’t know the severity.  (She may have guessed from the severity of my reactions that it was pretty bad, but we haven’t discussed any details.)

She tried to make me more comfortable with it.  She said she wouldn’t do an internal exam because she knew I couldn’t do that (yet).  She said I could bring someone with me, and they could stay with me but not see anything.  (I didn’t tell her I’m so pathetic I don’t have anyone to bring.)  She said some people take Valium or Ativan right before the appointment.  She even said that if I couldn’t do an exam, we could just talk about how things were going with the Nexplanon.  She said it was my choice.

But for me, it never feels like what happens to my body is my choice.  I lose the ability to say no to people in positions of power and authority.  It feels like they’re going to do whatever they want to me anyway, so it’s better to agree to it.  Then they don’t get mad, so they don’t hurt you as bad.  So I say yes and okay when what I mean is I’m so scared you’re going to hurt me, and I really need you to be kind and gentle with me, and I need you to make me feel safe.  Since I can’t say what I really need to say, it never feels safe.  It never feels like my choice.  No choice, no voice.

I felt trapped in that exam room yesterday.  I guess I could’ve said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t deal with this right now.  I need to go.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed, and I’m starting to dissociate.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m trying to work with you, but I need you to slow down even more with me.”  Someone could’ve said those things, but I don’t think I could’ve.  It was taking everything I had not to go into a total dissociative shutdown.  My vision kept going blank, and I kept blinking over and over to bring it back.  My ears were ringing.  I couldn’t be articulate; one or two words or a nod was all I could get out.  And then she wanted me to look at her when I said I’d come back in three months, and I don’t think she understood why I couldn’t make eye contact.

People who don’t live with the extreme shame can never quite understand it.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  They don’t understand the intensity and persistence of the shame of someone else abusing me, even once I’ve accepted and come to believe that it wasn’t my fault.  Then there’s the shame of having a body, which is impossible to explain since everyone has one, and I don’t find other people’s bodies shameful.  The shame of not having anyone close or trusted enough to bring with me for an appointment.  I couldn’t explain my shame that instead of being my normally intelligent, articulate, adult self, I couldn’t help shutting down and turning into a terrified, barely-verbal child.  None of that makes sense to normal people.

I was trapped.  In my reality, I couldn’t leave or say no.  I couldn’t even communicate the depth of my distress, so I was completely alone with it.  And now I’m alone with the aftermath.  The acute trigger has subsided, but I’m still feeling raw and vulnerable.  Body memories, phantom touches, intrusive thoughts and memories, severe anxiety about an appointment that’s not for three months.  A feeling that I was violated, even though I know I wasn’t.  And the incredible shame crushing my chest.

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Drowning in Triggers

It feels like they’re everywhere right now.

My mother wants to talk about Ferguson and how people just need to take personal responsibility because clearly that would solve all the problems.  My sister the cop posts an “I support Darren Wilson” badge on Facebook.  She wants her department to have more riot gear to crush the race riots she thinks are inevitable.

These are two people who know–know–what cops can and will do to people who can’t defend themselves.  They’ve seen it; they’ve lived it.  Just like I have.

My father, my mother’s first husband, was a cop.  He sexually abused and raped me for sixteen years.  He hit me.  He nearly drowned me in a bathtub when I was three years old.  He regularly suffocated me, though I don’t know whether it was to keep me quiet during the abuse or to make me think he would kill me or both.  He put his gun to my head more than once.  He made me watch him kill my dog.  He forced me to choose whether he’d rape me or my sister.  He let his criminal justice students rape us too.  And he taught me that no one would ever believe me if I told because he was a cop and I was nothing.

My mother doesn’t know the details, but my sister the cop does–she lived it too.  I sheltered her from as much of it as I could, but she still got hurt badly.  She was the one who told, originally.  I would’ve gone on denying it forever because I needed to have one parent who didn’t hurt me, but once she disclosed, I had to support her.  She’s my sister.

We tried to have him investigated–well, my mother did, really.  I don’t recall her ever asking me or my sister if that’s what we wanted.  It was a complete joke.  No jurisdiction wanted it.  The abuse occurred across three states and several cities, so no one wanted it.  Everyone said it was someone else’s jurisdiction because who wants to investigate the cop-turned-criminal-justice-professor?  Finally, the Iowa State Police took the case.  They wouldn’t talk to me at all because I’m crazy.  They interrogated my sister, who would’ve been 16 or 17 at that point, until she threw up in a trash can.  They polygraphed my father, got an inconclusive result (OMG, a cop might know how to fake the notoriously unreliable polygraph?  Inconceivable!), and dropped the whole case.  Welcome to the Blue Wall of Silence, where victims don’t matter because cops have all the power.

Do they really not see the connection?  Do they really not think that giving people nearly unlimited power over people’s lives, freedom, and even bodily integrity with almost no oversight is dangerous?  Do they really not understand that the system that let Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown and abuse protesters and journalists is the same system that let our father get away with raping us for 16 years?  How can they not see that?

I feel so, so alone in all of this.

And then there’s Bill Cosby.  Another upstanding citizen who gets away with sexually assaulting women for years because he’s such a nice guy and has influence and power.  It’s all the same: the victims don’t matter because the rapists are such nice guys, you know, aside from all the rape.

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Blame

I’m so angry right now I can’t think straight.

A “friend” of mine who I was stupid enough to trust and tell how much I’m struggling has been on my case about going to the hospital.  I said being shamed and treated like I’m less than a person was not what I needed to get better, and she asked why I was so opposed to getting “help.”

So I told her.  I told her about how I’ve been yelled at for self-harming or being suicidal.  How a doctor refused to suture a cut that clearly needed it because he had “real patients who didn’t cause their own problems.”  How I’ve been strip-searched.  How I’ve been watched while showering and using the toilet.  How I’ve been forced to take medications that made me sicker.  How I’ve been threatened with restraints and worse “treatments” if I refused.  How my attempts to get help have been written off as “attention-seeking” and “manipulative.”

I told her about being in the state hospital.  I told her that one night, another patient came into my room, grabbed me by the throat, and hit me in the face over and over again.  Staff refused me any medical attention (I later found out the woman had broken my nose) and told me to “forget about it and move on because she didn’t know what she was doing.”  No attempt was made to protect me.  I told her that one of my roommates repeatedly sexually assaulted me, but I didn’t tell anyone because I knew they wouldn’t care and wouldn’t help me.

And this “friend” blamed me.

She said I should’ve reported any doctor who treated me poorly.  She said if I’d fought back against the woman who beat me up, she would’ve stopped.  She said I should’ve told someone I was being sexually assaulted and they would’ve stopped it.

She blamed me for all of it.

I’m trying to hang onto believing she’s wrong, believing I did the best I could to survive, believing it wasn’t my fault.  But I’m not doing very well.  Not hanging on very tight.

I want to hit her.  I want to beat the shit out of her.  But that turns almost instantly into wanting to slice myself to ribbons and then kill myself.  This is the hardest thing for me–I try so hard to stop blaming myself for all the traumas, but when someone I trust blames me, I fall apart.  I blocked her email and cell number, but her words keep replaying in my head.  I can’t stop that.

I’m really not okay right now.

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