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.

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)

I don’t pretend

vintage bridal shower invite

I don’t pretend. It’s a gift and  curse rolled into one. I received one bridal invitation, and I am anticipating a second one soon for another person. The two gals, Anita and Anastasia are the brides-to-be. I work with both of them. Anastasia and I are not close at all. We’ve never been kindred spirits. We pretty much keep to ourselves and our own crowd.

However, Anita and I used to be very good friends. In fact, she was one of the first people I opened up to about my sexual assault four years ago right after it happened. Unfortunately, she was less than a friend about the whole experience. Her first words to me were, “I’m sorry, but I can’t handle this.” These words were devastating to me, and it took me a couple of years to understand that there was a very personal reason for her that caused her to respond this way that had nothing to do with me. I can now understand and respect a person feeling this way. What made it worse was the fact that she carried on after that as if nothing happened with me. She would not ask me how I was doing, and as soon as she realized I was no longer the “fun girl” I used to be she moved on and out of our friendship. We’ve tried to mend this fence, but we’re left just feeling awkward around each other. We have no ill will towards each other, but we also no longer have the friendship kind of love that used to connect us.

My point is that I won’t be attending either bridal shower. My logic is that I am not friends with either one. Some of my friends think I should go, especially since I work with both of them. Screw that! I don’t play politics. I don’t do obligatory crap, and I don’t pretend.

I pretended for so long in my life, and it’s no longer in my bones to pretend. I pretended to care about my parents long after the love had died, and it ate at me. I pretended to be fine while I drank and had sex addictively, so much so that those addictions played a part in my sexual assault.

There is no more pretending. I am not an actress. I am me, and the beauty and upside of that is when I tell I love you, and that you mean a lot to me in my life you know it is true and real. When I hug you and greet you warmly, and ask you how you are doing you know that it is real and sincere. You never have to wonder if I mean what I say.

I don’t pretend.

(Photo credit: lulubrooks)