Then and Now

Four years ago I faced the one year anniversary of my sexual assault, and I was barely in a better place from the prior year. At the one year mark, my PTSD was overloading my brain with triggers.

I was on a business trip four years ago that had me triggered beyond recognition. It was raining hard, the kind of hard rain that leaves very little visibility, and it was pitch black dark. The hard rain scared me, and I could barely drive. At one point I realized that it was taking all my energy just to drive 50 mph on the highway, not safe at all. I pulled over at a rest stop for a while, but I was still freaked out when I resumed driving. In the end I decided to find a hotel to stay in, though I was only an hour away from home. But I knew it wasn’t safe for me to continue driving.

That whole experience caused a barrel of stress after the trip, as my employer at the time did not want to pay for an extra hotel night when I was an hour away from home. I started getting more serious about my treatment after that trip. Eventually I left this job because I realized that all of the travel was getting in the way of my appointments.

Now I am back doing the kind of work I was doing four years ago, but with a different employer. This position has travel, though not as much as my previous position. Without realizing it, this past week, I was reliving the trip from four years ago. I found myself on the same highway with heavy rain, and a dark night. But this time I understood myself better. I knew that some of the peeps inside were scared, and this is why my body was in stress mode.

When the rain was coming down at a ferocious rate, and I couldn’t see a thing, and I could feel myself start to freak out internally something just snapped me out of the scared mode, and I just said “NO! We are not going to die like this on a road to nowhere with no one around. We are getting out of this, and we’re having room service when we get to the hotel. You hear me? Room service! We’re living through this thing!”

Blessedly we made it to the hotel without incident. I ordered a seltzer and a cobb salad for dinner, and we were so happy to be alive, and safe, and dry.

Then the next morning I had my meeting, and headed home with drier weather and calmer skies. I’ve traveled this road a number of times since that sexual assault four years ago, but this was the first time I noticed the hotel, THE hotel where it all happened. It’s surely been visible from the road all these years as I’ve passed it by. But this was the first time I ever noticed it since that day.

I blinked. Could this really be the place? I stared as I drove by, and, yes, indeed, it was.

What happened next surprised me.

I stared at it, and drove on.

As I said before, I am a bad friend …

It has taken me five days to compose this post. That’s how hard it’s been to write about this.

In a previous post I recounted the ways in which I am a bad friend. Well, I had a revealing conversation today that gave more evidence of that. A friend of mine asked me how my Memorial Day weekend was, and she could tell it was not a good weekend for me. I told her that it was a hard weekend because I found myself recounting previous Memorial Days when she and I were closer, and I missed it. I then went on tell her that I felt she and the rest of the group of friends abandoned me when I really needed them.

She then shocked me by telling me that was not the case, that she, in fact, called me frequently during the time after I had my traumatic incident. She then went into detail about lengthy conversations we had on the phone, and I recall none of it. She has no reason to lie to me, and she gave too many details for it to be a lie. Plus, it’s not like her to tell anything but the truth.

And in that vein, of always telling the truth, while I was still grappling with the fact that she did, in fact, keep in contact with me, she called out the elephant in the room. She said to me, ” You never visited after my son was born. You only held him once. You disappeared as soon as my son was born, and I never understood why that happened.”

So there it was, just like that, she called it out. After nearly 5 years of walking around the elephant one of us finally called it out. I decided to go with it, and tell her after all this time why I did what I did.

Nearly five years ago I hit rock bottom. I was drinking and carelessly putting myself in unsafe situations. This behavior culminated in a sexual assault from someone I knew, and that person held a job in high esteem. My friend says that I she and I had long conversations about this attack where she implored me to report it. I do not recall these conversations, but the fact the she knew so many details indicates that we did have these conversations. I can only attribute my memory loss to my DID.

Shortly after my assault my friend adopted a newborn baby. My hitting rock bottom and crawling into the rooms nearly dovetailed with the arrival of her son. And I couldn’t deal, couldn’t and wouldn’t go see the baby. All of a sudden I had an aversion to her baby. It flummoxed me because I love babies. But I could not come near this baby without getting twitchy and freaked out.

The baby was not at fault for my body’s reactions. My friend was not at fault for my body’s reactions. Although I knew that, I was powerless to change my reactions. I could not function around this poor child, and found myself avoiding going to her house to see him. I avoided this new lovely child because of the reaction my body had around this precious being. But the fallout was my friendship with this person whom I cherished. That friendship took a very bad hit, and then, eventually, the friendship was no longer alive. There were no words exchanged about it, it just became a long goodbye.

Now it is all out in the open, and the realization of the impact of my conditions on friendships has hit me hard. I have a better understanding as to why I’m largely alone. It’s hard to swallow, but it makes sense.

God’s house is closed for business

Restaurant's "Sorry we're Closed" sign

Today I became angry at my psychiatrist. This is a new experience for me. I am angry at Doc, and can hardly see straight.  It all began when Doc asked me how I was doing today. I had a hard time articulating that I was having a hard time because it was *that* day, the day the unthinkable happened 4 years ago. When I finally told him what day it was he started using the R word over and over again. I finally just became angry at him, and asked him to stop. Doc then started talking about that’s what happened to me (the R word), and I cut him off because I did not want to hear it. Then he pointed out that it still upsets me. We have a genius on our hands peeps!

Then, somehow, we started talking about my dissociation. I don’t recall how we got on that topic.

Based on what I shared about my dissociation Doc then announced to me that he was changing my diagnosis to “dissociative disorder not otherwise specified.” Then he started asking me questions where he was addressing “all the parts of me!” That just scared me, and threw me. I didn’t understand why he was doing that. To me, it sounded like he thought I might have DID, and I asked him if he thought I had that. He said he didn’t know yet, but that it didn’t matter. Whatever I had I had, it was just a label. Easy for him to say. I kept asking what all this meant-the diagnosis change, asking questions of all the parts of me. Finally he just got exasperated with my questions, and said that it doesn’t matter because the diagnosis does not change the core of me. Still, though, it mattered to me.

Just like that, with a flick of the pen, I went from being diagnosed with PTSD to having that revised to a diagnosis of dissociative disorder not otherwise specified, with a possible revision later.

The session ended, and I was mad and upset. I’m sure it was obvious, but he just said, “I’ll see you on Thursday.” Okay. Glad to not make you late for lunch. (Our session ended at noon.)

I left his office in tears, and noticed the cute little Lutheran church right across the street from his office. I wanted, more than anything, to sit in a quiet church. I pulled open the door, or rather, I tried to pull open the door. But, it was locked. The church was closed in the middle of the day. Perhaps I’m naive, but I thought churches were at least open during the day for people to go in and pray, if they so choose. Maybe not? I don’t know where I got this idea, but I was incorrect in this presumption.

It also felt incredibly lonely in the world at that moment. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day, but there I was trying to pry open the door to a closed church with snot all over my face from crying, a very fine moment for me, indeed.

So, I made myself go to this art sculpture park that was nearby. It was weird. I tried to like it, but I couldn’t conjure a like for it.

Then I called a work friend to ask her about an assignment she was covering for me since I was off today. She told me it was taken care of, and there was nothing to worry about. I then thanked her for being nice to me, and started to cry. Poor thing, that really threw her.

Right now, I just can’t think of what I talked about with Doc. It scares me, and I am so mad at him for just side-swiping me with this information.

Oh, yeah, and God, I’d like to address you as well while I’m at it … how do you feel about the closed churches during the day? Surely that does not please you. I don’t get it. Your house should be open for business, at least at noon on a Tuesday.

(Photo credit: Nick Papakyriazis)