Friday, 23 August 2013


One of the amazing things about this blog is the reactions and comments that I get. Largely, it's not done in public, but via Twitter or by email to this account. Women who say that they're grateful that they're not alone, that they thought they were strange for feeling like this, or those who are glad there is someone talking about the reality of sexual assault and its impact.

This two weeks have been strange. It feels like so many of the emotions are familiar, and others are completely new as well. The journey I'm on with Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre means that there is more indignation and anger at my situation, and a determination to speak out and share, but then the same journey results in a feeling of shame, that I haven't made enough progress and am reverting back to the "old" me. 

At the same time, the fact that I am still feeling this is powerful. It shows that everyone reacts, that sexual assault is a traumatic experience that affects even the strongest people. It's an experience worth sharing.

My first week was really overpowered by a feeling of numbness, a lasting shock that resulted in crying and physically shaking with no discernible emotions attached. Towards the end of that period, things started to sink in a little more. Like the fact that I never got round to taking emergency contraception, like the fact that I was actually quite sad and lonely and hurt.

I was quite pleased with the way I seemed to be handling things, exploring emotions through art and music, being aware of how I felt and not blaming myself for that. I seemed so calm and in control, and I genuinely felt like that too. Yes, I was upset, but that was okay. I could deal with that. I think I would have been more worried if I hadn't been!

Then something clicked. It was Tuesday night, after the session and it all started unravelling like a ball of wool. First of all was the prospect of pregnancy. How did I feel about that whole can of worms? I mean, the fact that I miscarried in 2005 has played a huge part in my feelings towards that first assault. After struggling to come to terms with the pregnancy and an almost slapstick story of my attempt to have an abortion, I finally decided to have the baby, only to lose her. So this time, I don't know. If I'm not pregnant, will that leave me upset after my previous experience, because last time it was the "one positive"? If I am pregnant, then I face the challenge of either termination or telling those around me what happened - because everyone knows that I'm not interested in men.

I started to worry about how I was going to get through Wednesday, worried about my increasing anger and irritability (I was - and am - snapping at everyone!) and whether people around me will notice that. What am I supposed to say to my family and friends?

And then, on Wednesday, the worst bits came.

A friend offered me drugs. The sort of drugs I used to take, the first time it all happened. I used to take them in conjunction with alcohol to heighten the effect. It would completely wipe my memory, I'd be knocked out and not remember or feel a thing. It was amazing. It got me through that first year or so.

There was a pineapple downstairs in the kitchen. I'm severely allergic, it could kill me. All it would take would be a small bite of sweet, fresh fruit and I'd be dead in minutes. It almost seemed worth it.

And the alcohol. Endless amounts of alcohol in the cupboard. So easy just to numb the pain, even if it were just for a little while. Screw D and her insistence that it's "just another form of self-harm".

I didn't do any of those things. I stayed away from all three. But the strength it took to do all that was immense. I used to think that staying alive was the weaker option, that it took more bravery to actually end it and change the status quo. That's how it felt last time. But this time, it's the complete opposite. I know myself, I know why I want those things and I'm trying to stay away.

The truth is, I wasn't quite as strong as I wanted to be. I found another way to cause damage. I tried to reach out and get the help I know I need, but I don't think she realised that's what I was trying to do. So I'm trying to be strong until Tuesday, but it's not easy. I don't think it's ever easy.

But it does get easier. I know it does because I've been here before. Yes, there are temptations and struggles, but you get so used to carrying on that it's not a battle anymore, you don't see it as being "strong". There are still struggles, other challenges, but bit by bit, you conquer each of those things and - when you do - you give yourself a secret knowing smile each time. No-one is going to beat me, not even myself.

I don't think it ever stops being painful. If it does, then I've not got there yet - I'll let you know when I do. I see it like a fizzy drink. The pain is the liquid. When you first open the bottle, especially if it's been under pressure, then it fizzes everywhere and is volatile. In time, it goes flat. It's still there, but it it has changed, somehow. I guess, over a lot of time, it would evaporate and it would really change. The molecules still exist but in a very different form - but left in the bottle would be the syrup, that fundamental part of the pain. So it will always be there, somehow, somewhere.

It does get more manageable, though. I keep having to tell myself this, and remind myself. 

I don't like admitting that I'm less than perfect to anyone, not when it comes to this stuff. But then, it is important to show that I'm not, and that these struggles are a real part of everyday life. The spiteful, irritable little part of me that wants to snap at other people to grow up and shut up. The scared bit that starts to panic at the thought of being left alone in the house with workmen. The part that's still in shock and starts shaking. The sorrowful part that knows in a few short weeks, I'll be on my own again and have to deal with this without the support I currently have. The angry part that hates this man for stripping me of all the strength and dignity I had accumulated through my journey - or perhaps for showing that I didn't have any of it in the first place.

The emotions are dizzying and conflicting, but somehow reassuring. As long as I'm still feeling, I know I'm still alive, still getting through somehow.

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